By: Shannon Mann
Baseball isn’t always about winning and losing, sometimes it’s just about playing with heart.
On April 30, 2018, two, rival middle school teams came together to share their passion for the sport with a budding player.
Neuse Charter Middle School Boys’ Baseball team welcomed a kindergartner to join them during their home game against Four Oaks Middle School.
While the team wasn’t scouting under-aged talent, or breaking any conference rules, they were inviting a Miracle League of Johnston County player to be an honorary cougar.
Tommy Judge, a 6-year-old kindergartner with a genetic disorder called DiGeorge Syndrome, joined Miracle League in the Fall of 2017. He was paired up with a Neuse Charter School baseball player as his buddy, and since then the two boys have grown quite close sharing a love of the game.
Tommy’s condition caused him to be born with a heart defect, cleft lip and palate and a laryngeal web because of this he struggles with developmental delays and feeding issues. Tommy’s mother, Bobbie Judge, said she enrolled her son in Miracle League to help with his self confidence.
“He’s an amazing kid,” said Judge. “But sadly he doesn’t always see that for himself.”
Judge said her son loves throwing things and thought baseball would be a natural fit. “I have seen his confidence grow so much,” Judge said. “He’s pretty shy, especially around other kids, but when he’s on the baseball field he’s completely comfortable and happy.”
Neuse Charter’s Coach Chase Crocker told his team about the opportunity to volunteer with Miracle League last school year, so when this idea presented itself Crocker was all about making it happen. One curve ball was that Tommy attends Four Oaks Elementary School, and the Neuse Charter Cougars were playing the Four Oaks Cardinals on the night Tommy was being made an honorary team member.
“We’re just stealing future talent from our rivals,” joked Crocker. “Actually we were excited to include Four Oaks as part of our festivities to honor Tommy.”
When Four Oaks Coach Scott Jernigan found out about what the Cougars were doing he talked it over with his players.
“My team was all on-board to do something too,” said Jernigan.
Tommy arrived in his Miracle League Muckdogs jersey and was presented with signed balls and baseball hats from both teams at the start of the game, and a jersey from Four Oaks Middle School. Both teams lined the baselines as Tommy threw out the first pitch of the game. He stayed for the entire game and walked the congratulatory line with the teams at the end.
While Tommy didn’t say which team he’d “sign” with, he was seen sitting in the Cougar’s dugout during the first inning and cheering for his buddy when he pitched against the Cardinals.
Two hours after the game ended Judge said her son had been talking baseball nonstop. “He isn’t very vocal,” his mom said, “But he was so excited to do this. I can’t thank the teams enough.”
For more information about Miracle League of Johnston County go to: http://www.miracleleaguejc.