After a look back at Ayudan Week and all it had to offer, all I can say is, WHAT A WEEK!
The past ten days or so have been extremely eventful for the Miami Marlins and the South Florida community — from the Coconut Grove Arts Festival on Sunday, to the action-packed Winter Warm-Up on Saturday, and everything in the middle.
There was one event above all, though, that really stood out to me. This event really impacted me and truly opened my eyes to how amazing and engaged this organization is to its surrounding communities.
The 2nd Annual Ayudan Baseball Classic was as good as advertised. There was a little bit of everything; we had an honorary bench coach in Dee Gordon, Marlins World Series Head Coach Jack McKeon in attendance, web gems galore and even a home run.
The reason this special event resonated with me is because I, myself, am a product of the greater Miami area and grew up playing little league baseball. Watching those kids out there play in such a beautiful ballpark is something I, as a kid, could only dream of doing.
The Marlins organization has given these kids a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and sitting there in the stands gave me an awesome perspective as to what the Marlins are about. Watching Carlos Reyes hit a 360-foot home run that disappeared into the visitors’ dugout, and fist pumping with Miami Marlins team President David Samson and President of Baseball Operations Mike Hill, was surreal. Dee Gordon was calling for players to chest bump with him.
To sum things up, I think everyone enjoyed themselves this past week. I just feel like my experience really touched me because it hit home.
Hats off to the players of the RBI Baseball Classic for an amazing game. That experience will be something you can tell your grandchildren about someday.
Imagine playing a game of baseball: the smell of a freshly manicured field, the solid clay ground beneath you, the slender handle of a lightweight bat, the buzzing of the crowd.
Now imagine playing baseball without sight.
Impossible, some might say, but those people have never witnessed beep ball.
Beep ball is baseball for the visually impaired. Here’s how it works: There are six innings in a game, three outs per inning, four strikes and one pass ball per batter. The only sighted members of the game are the pitcher and catcher. The bases (2) are four foot padded cylinders with speakers that give off a loud, continuous buzzing sound when activated. There is no second base, only a first and third base. The ball also has a speaker that gives off a continuous beeping sound, hence the name “Beep Ball.” The batter listens for the beeping ball and swings. One of the two bases will be activated. Players must depend on their keen sense of hearing when deciding which base to run to.
The Miami Marlins held their third annual beep ball game at Marlins Park this past Monday during Marlins Ayudan Week, a week in which the Marlins front office staff and players commit to community involvement. 20 students from S.L.A.M. Academy and 20 members from Miami Lighthouse for the Blind, whose ages ranged from seven to 21, joined together to form four teams: the Beep Ball Badgers, the Fire Kings, the Super Sluggers and the Nine Colts. All players were required to wear blindfolds.
Two separate games were held simultaneously, one on the main field and one in left field. The games were an hour long, including a five minute intermission for a field change, allowing all players the opportunity to play on the main diamond at Marlins Park. Marlins Ayudan team C’Mon Blue, captained by Marlins president Mr. David Samson, participated as base activators, score keepers, catchers and motivators. C’Mon Blue also had help from a few professional baseball players including Mike Dunn, Jarred Cosart, Aaron Crow, and Mat Latos.
The Nine Colts beat the Super Sluggers by just one point (10 – 9) and the Fire Kings scored two more runs than the Beep Ball Badgers (5 – 3). It was a great experience for everyone. It was competitive in the most lighthearted way. “I did it! I can’t believe I did it! I hit the ball and scored,” an elated 7-year-old named Kayden shouted.
This kind of excitement and happiness is what Marlins Ayudan lives for!
As you will recall, Marlins starting pitcher Henderson Alvarez threw a dramatic no-hitter on Closing Day of 2013 to defeat the Detroit Tigers. The day was unforgettable and memorialized with these pretty cool commemorative baseballs:
Well, it turns out those baseballs can be used for a lot more than just displaying in your trophy case…
Those baseballs got some great use at Marlins Ayudan Partner School Lenora B. Smith Elementary in Liberty City, as students used them in an interactive activity to bring to life the theme of their book club book.
The Book Club leader and Media Specialist, who also works with Marlins Ayudan on our literacy program, sent us a meaningful thank you note:
With meaningful words like that, the impact that Marlins Ayudan has on our youth is tangible. I cannot think of a better use of commemorative baseballs than this. The reality of the impact really came to life when we learned that the students took the message of their book to heart and went on to shine themselves by winning the first round of the Regional Book Battle.
It’s safe to say the Radical Readers at Lenora B. Smith are demonstrating the spirit of The Girl Who Threw Butterflies and of Henderson Alvarez with their dedication to reading and competing.
We look forward to seeing what these youth will do in the finals! All of the #FishFamily is cheering for you, Radical Readers!
The following entry was written early Saturday morning…
So, it’s 1:23am on Saturday morning, and I find myself at Coral Shores High School in the Florida Keys. I am sitting in a 12-passenger van, and I’m supposed to be asleep. But come on! This place is bustling with excitement, enthusiasm and a passion that I can’t quite put into words. “It’s Ragnar, baby!” At least that’s what keeps being shouted into the night!
I, along with my colleague Adrian Mora, am the navigator of Van #2 for the Marlins Ayudan Ragnar Relay Team. What is that, you may ask? Well, it is a 196-mile, 12-member relay race from Miami to Key West.
That’s right… 12 people, on foot, tag teaming it all the way to the Southernmost Point!
Team Marlins Ayudan has embarked on this challenge all in the name of charity. In particular, it is to honor the amazing athletes of Special Olympics Miami-Dade. So far Team Marlins Ayudan has raised over $7,200!
My fellow Blue Shirts humble me daily with their dedication to impacting others’ lives in a positive manner, but this experience has taken my admiration to a whole new level. Our van has only completed one of the three legs, but Van #1 is wrapping their second leg within the hour. Their mental toughness and stamina is inspiring… very reminiscent of the athletes for which they run.
To make a donation to the Special Olympics of Miami-Dade please visit our team’s donation page.
Students at the Northwest Boys and Girls Club jumped, sprinted and danced their way to good heart health as part of the Compression For Life program implemented by Jeff Urgelles, bullpen catcher for the Miami Marlins. In August 2012, Urgelles was warming up for a road game in Arizona when a game day employee collapsed in cardiac arrest. Having been a firefighter/paramedic for Miami-Dade Ambulance, Urgelles knew how to perform CPR and did so successfully until the paramedics arrived and took over.
Urgelles realized just how important it is to be knowledgeable about CPR. He wanted to teach others how to care for their hearts to avoid scary situations like the one he experienced. Urgelles partnered with the Marlins Foundation and other local agencies to start the Compression for Life Program. The program teaches youth at Boys and Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade about heart health and provides CPR and first aid training.
It turns out being heart healthy is a lot more fun and tasty than the kids thought! Students were broken up into three groups. Groups rotated between three stations: exercise, nutrition education, and healthy snacks. They had a great time, especially in the snacking station! Marlins Ayudan provided low-fat yougurt, fruit strips, and hummus with carrots for snacks. The kids surprisingly devoured the hummus!
All in all, it was a successful kickoff. There will be two more events before the program concludes in mid-February during Marlins Ayudan week.