Difference Makers: Team of Dreams primed to start 3rd season

A baseball league in Ascension Parish that allows kids with disabilities to play without restrictions, is entering its third season this spring.

The Team of Dreams League is open to children, youth and adults who use wheelchairs or have physical or intellectual disabilities. Team members don’t have to live in the parish to participate.

The all-abilities field on South Irma Boulevard began two years ago as the dream of a group of volunteers, called the Team of Dreams, with Leadership Ascension, a program of the Ascension Chamber of Commerce.

“Before the pandemic, Leadership Ascension wanted to start a baseball league for kids with disabilities,” said Team of Dreams Co-Director Rochelle Waggenspack. “A grant for the field the games are played on was secured through the Cal Ripken Sr. foundation.”

The Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation is a nonprofit named after the Baltimore Orioles player and manager. It builds such fields across the country and donated $150,000 toward the one in Gonzales. 

Waggenspack, who teaches in Ascension Parish, also worked with Miracle League in Baton Rouge before she was recruited to join Team of Dreams.

“I was a spectator in the stands for Miracle League,” Waggenspack recalled. “From talking with parents, I realized a lot of the kids there were from Ascension Parish. About 30 to 40 percent of the kids in Miracle League were from Ascension because there was nothing like this there.”

The league’s first season kicked off in March 2022 with four teams total, two in the age 5 to 12 age group and two teams in the 13-and-over division.

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Waggenspack said the fall season, the league increased to six total teams.

“There was such a need for this in Ascension Parish,” Waggenspack said. “We saw the need in Ascension Parish through the schools we teach at. The Team of Dreams allows these kids to play baseball without restrictions.”

Along with Waggenspack, Team of Dreams Co-Director Emily Mooney also works in the Ascension Parish School system.

“The league is run mostly by volunteers,” said Lance Kohan, Gonzales recreation director. “It’s a good deal.”

The games typically last about an hour. Each player hits every inning. High school students volunteer as “buddies” for the games to help the players get around the bases and play the game.

Registration for the spring season begins in January with the games set to begin in March. The younger kids will play on Mondays while the older kids play on Tuesday. Everyone can register online through the City of Gonzales recreation website.

Waggenspack said the cost to play is $50, which covers field maintenance and other fees. The league supplies the equipment.

“It’s a great way for the kids to be a part of a team without the extra expenses that go with playing in other leagues,” Waggenspack said. “Everything is done strictly voluntarily so we ask for volunteers.”

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