By Karen Brainard
It was an all-American opening day at the Ramona Pony Baseball fields, March 2, with youth teams throwing candy in their parade around the fields, proud parents cheering, recognition of volunteers, the enticing aroma of grilled hamburgers, and of course, the ceremonial first pitch.
And, in the background were inspiring stories of two — one age 8 and one age 63 — who are determined not to let a medical condition keep them down and off the fields.
Baseball brings together young and old, Ramona Pony Baseball League President Tim Fidler told the crowd at the festivities. Referring to photos of teams throughout the years that are posted at the snack bar, Fidler said one thing they all have in common is “lots and lots of smiles.”
“Keep leading by example,” he advised the young players.
County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, who represents Ramona in her District 2, said she has a passion for having “the best recreational facilities for our kids.” Jacob, a former educator, said she used to play ball and believes success on the ball field means not only success in the classroom but also in life.
Prayers were said for longtime umpire Rick Leroy, who recently had a stroke and is undergoing therapy at Palomar Hospital’s rehabilitation unit, and flowers were presented to his wife, Debbie, and daughter, Stephanie Ogilvie. Debbie told the
that her husband has umpired games for 16 or 17 years and is the league’s umpire coordinator.
The stroke, she said, affected his right side, but he can speak.
“He’s got high spirits and determined to be independent and walk again,” Debbie said.
“He wants to do it aggressively,” she said of the therapy. He’s got a lot of support.”
Opening pitch honors went to 8-year-old Colin Baldwin, whose journey to overcome a rare medical condition is allowing him to play ball this year, as a member of the Pinto Orioles.
Two years ago when Colin started the baseball season, he was racing around the bases. A couple of weeksinto the season, however, he developed a slight limp in his right leg that quickly became worse. Eventually his left leg was also affected.
After his parents, Kevin and Angela Baldwin, took him for numerous tests and meetings with several doctors, Colin was diagnosed with dystonia, a neurological movement disorder in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures.
“He has a condition that has a mutated gene. It’s very rare,” said Angela.
His condition spread to his right arm, affecting his ability to write. Because safety became a concern at school, he had to use a wheelchair.
There is no cure for dystonia but the Baldwins found a neurosurgeon at University of California San Francisco, who performs a special surgery that reduces the symptoms. Called Deep Brain Stimulation or DBS, the surgery involved implanting two electrical probes into the part of Colin’s brain that controls movement, and implanting two battery-pack boxes into his chest.
“He’ll get a 60 to 99 percent benefit from it. It’s like a Band-Aid and enables him to move,” explained Angela.
Angela said Colin has to meet with doctors every three months for fine-tuning and programming, but she is thrilled that not only can he walk, he can run and play sports.
“For him to be out here is awesome,” said Pinto Orioles manager Darien Webster.
Also at the opening day ceremonies, Pony League board members were recognized, as well as special volunteers.
The 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award went to Eric Webb of Webb Construction, Inc.
Don and Heather Stoffel were awarded 2013 Volunteers of the Year, and the 2013 Volunteer Family of the Year went to the Cortez family.
In addition, banners were presented to the 2012 14-U Pony Southwest Regional East Section Champions, the 12-U Bronco Southwest Regional South Section Champions, and the 11-U Bronco II Southern California Southwest Regional Champions.
According to Fidler, close to 350 boys have signed up to play with the Pony League, which is about the same as last year.