Former Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Jonah Bayliss offers tips to Pathfinder Village resident Mark R. on getting the ball in the strike zone.

Baseball dreams became reality recently at Cooperstown’s Doubleday Field as six Major League Baseball alumni led a skills clinic for the residents of Pathfinder Village of Edmeston.

Organized by regional volunteers and Major League Baseball Alumni Association members, the clinic featured Clint Hurdle, former manager of the Colorado Rockies and Pittsburgh Pirates; Tom Carroll, a retired pitcher with the Cincinnati Reds; Jonah Bayliss, a past relief pitcher for Kansas City and Pittsburgh; Joel Bennett, a past pitcher with the Phillies; Tim Christman, a past pitcher for the Rockies; and Gary Holle, a former first baseman for the Texas Rangers, according to a Pathfinder media release.

More than 50 players from Pathfinder Village, a residential community and service provider for people with Down syndrome and other intellectual disabilities, went through skills stations in hitting, pitching, throwing and fielding with the MLB alumni offering tips and encouragement, the release said. The coaches reminded the players to focus on the basics as they hit balls off tees.

“Doubleday and Cooperstown are hallowed ground for everyone who loves baseball,” said Hurdle, who works with several non-profit organizations to provide sports clinics for people with disabilities and underserved communities throughout the country. “This was our second clinic with Pathfinder. To see their smiles, their effort, the recognition that they’ve done something special that they didn’t know they could do before they got to Doubleday. It really hits home.

“It’s a wonderful day of smiles — to give people a special day they’ll remember,” he said. “Everyone feels like a million bucks when they line up on the baselines and put on their jerseys. Everyone wants to hit, catch and throw; a few of the instructors got infield dust in their eyes as they worked with the residents. I know I did. To share baseball with adults with special needs, it’s a love affair.”

Dr. Joseph Dutkowsky of Cooperstown, a pediatric orthopedist with Bassett Healthcare Network who has spent his career serving people with special needs, helped organize the Doubleday event, according to the release. He said the Pathfinder clinic had its beginnings in his work with the New York City Ballet to create a series of dance workshops for children with developmental disabilities. After the classes were featured in a CBS “Sunday Morning” segment in 2018, he was asked to speak to a group of Catholic major league players and alumni. He shared the ballet story with the group and challenged them to leverage their talents to bring people with physical challenges onto the ballfield for skills clinics. Carroll was part of that audience.

“What we’re doing with baseball is exactly what we did with ballet; we have these elite performers sharing with people who have physical challenges,” Dutkowsky said. “Some people see divergence when you say Major League Baseball players and people with Down syndrome, or prima ballerinas and kids with cerebral palsy, but I see convergence. The ball players respond exactly the way the dancers do: These elite performers are judged continually on their abilities … these kids give them a respite, a judgement-free zone, where dance or baseball becomes fun again. They’re out there, just having fun.”

“I think what Dr. Joe and the major league players experienced is that by giving of themselves to serve others, that unexpectedly, our folks offered something more powerful in return, unconditional love and acceptance,” said Paul C. Landers, Pathfinder’s president and chief executive officer. “The power our individuals possess transcends societal misperceptions and feeds the human spirit. There was an abundance of generosity on Doubleday Field today.”

The players also received autographed balls, trading cards, and copies of “Memories and Dreams,” the magazine of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. The players were also photographed to have their own baseball cards as mementoes of their Doubleday experience, according to the release.

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