Brooke Kennedy is a young woman who has a love for baseball. Brooke started playing Tee Ball at Waverly Baseball club in Victoria at the age of 8. Brooke’s story is like every other young person that forms a bond and desire for sport – she enjoys being part of a team and being active. However what makes Brooke’s journey so special is the enormous courage it has taken for her to continue to strive and thrive through baseball even though her disability prevents her from talking, walking, running, spatial awareness and maintaining her body temperature through sweating.
Sue Kennedy has commented that ‘We were keen for Brooke to have the experience of playing a team sport and it seemed to us that baseball was ideally suited as a sport, for a child with a disability to be able to participate in.’
Brooke has been diagnosed with Ataxic Cerebral Palsy and severe Dyspraxia. Since age 2 Brooke attended the Cerebral Palsy Education Centre in Melbourne. The centre has a strong philosophy that encourages children with a disability to participate in everything they can to the best of their ability: school, sport, life. The centre believes in integration and participation for children with disabilities in their local communities. The Australian Baseball federation supports this belief and is committed through our policy of Sports CONNECT to providing opportunities and creating pathways for athletes with a disability to participation in all facets of baseball.
Sue Kennedy commented further by stating that ‘… her participation would slow the game down for the other kids, but at no time did anyone ever complain, instead the cheers of support would get a little bit louder as she came up to bat. It was agreed that Neil would always coach pitch to her if she was batting, that this would be done from a slightly closer distance and that he would pitch the ball in at an angle that would allow her the most success in batting.’
It is a true testament to Brooke, her family and the Waverly Baseball Club that Brooke has continued to develop as a baseball player and a woman considering her challenges she has faced along the way. By January this year the issues with her inability to sweat meant again that she might have had to give up playing baseball. However Phil Dale (Brooke’s uncle, Autralian Baseball icon and widely experienced baseballer in Australia) mentioned that the Ice Vests that the Australian pitchers used when playing in very hot countries may be of assistance to Brooke. In turn a call to Bruce Rawson was made, who organised a vice vest that allowed Brooke back out on the field again.
When it comes to inclusive practices it can just be a matter of thinking outside the square, modifying the game format or just talking amongst the club for ideas. As Sue Kennedy mentions further ‘There are some days that Brooke can walk independently, other days when she is wheelchair bound. No two days are the same for Brooke, it is the nature of her disability, but again heads were put together and it was decided that on the days when Brooke could not walk but could stand and bat, she would be the team’s designated hitter, with a pinch runner to do the running to base.’
Baseball provides a fantastic opportunity for people with a disability to be involved in mainstream sport with their fellow peers. Many kids with a disability crave being in a team and baseball provides a great place for this to occur.