by Brian C Kelly, Individualized Community Services Manager at Hammer

Back in the summer of 2013 Karen Trygstad from the Hammer training department, saw me in my St. Louis Park baseball gear on the way to practice and it lead to us meeting and connecting over our love of the game. Karen’s two sons played at Wayzata High School and one currently plays at UND while the other is currently a grad assistant. After working at Hammer for a short period of time, Karen had an idea that she brought to her husband Brian, who serves on the Wayzata baseball board.  What if Wayzata Baseball put on a clinic for the people we support at Hammer? Karen connected with me and the recreation department about the idea and we were on board 100%. Brian brought it to the Wayzata baseball board and it was received with an overwhelming, yes! Karen then asked her son’s former coach to run the event with Wayzata high school and youth players. That former coach happened to be Scott Leius from the 1991 Minnesota Twins World Series team!

The event was scheduled, but nobody knew what was about to take place.  A group of hardcore baseball fans that Hammer supports showed up to the Wayzata dome on 12/28/13 and they were met by Scott and a ton of Wayzata players that were nervous, yet excited. Scott and the Wayzata boys brought the energy and fun and all nerves quickly turned to laughter, conversation, and connections through their mutual love of the game.

Fast forward three years and the third annual Hammer Holiday Homerun is in the books. Multiple people we support have been regulars each year, one of them is Michael. Michael lives with his parents in Brooklyn Center and has been supported by Hammer for about 5 years. This event has become a highlight of Michael’s year, and mine because I get to see the joy it brings to him. His relationship with Scott has grown each year and it’s something Michael truly cherishes. This year, Michael had the opportunity to work with Wayzata alumni, Paul Voelker who is currently playing at the AA level with the Detroit Tigers organization. Paul taught Michael how to grip and throw a fastball, curveball, and Michael’s favorite, a knuckleball!

Baseball Michael

Scott, Paul, and the Wayzata baseball program have continued to break down barriers that separate people with and without disabilities at this event. Baseball gives us so many life lessons and I’ve learned and taught a lot of them. This event is no exception as life lessons are so evidently being learned by the people we support and the people running the clinic.

My favorite quote is “Live life like a 3-1 count”.  For those of you that don’t know the game, I’ll explain. When you’re a hitter and the count is three balls and one strike, you’re in control of the at-bat, the pitcher has to throw a strike or you get on base with a walk, it’s your time to take a big swing.

I challenge you all to live life like a 3-1 count and take a big swing when the opportunity to do something positive presents itself!