Boy With Down Syndrome Needs Little League Baseball Waiver
BRADENTON, Fla — They say there’s no crying in baseball.
But Randy Cody said there’s often someone inevitably moved to tears when his son Cameron steps onto the field with his Lakewood Ranch Little League team.
“It’s the one place in his life where he actually feels equal to the other kids,” Randy said.
An equalizer, for the 13-year-old with Down syndrome who usually plays with kids younger than him.
“Academically, Cameron is a sixth grader with kindergarten first-grade intellect,” Randy said.
And a teenager who has just mastered the hitting after five years in the league.
“I’ve been waiting for Cameron to hit the ball my whole life,” laughed Randy, “We practice so hard.”
So you can imagine the excitement when he hit a home run in a recent game.
“I coach third base, and when he hits that ball and he comes rumbling and stumbling around the bases,” Randy said. “Like his dexterity isn’t that great, his coordination isn’t that great, he’s not a very good runner, but he comes in and he’s got this huge sweaty smile on his face. I see that joy coming out of this kid who is unexpectedly with Down syndrome playing in a league with typical kids trying to hit a ball thrown at him and trying to process that contact and he won to go on base? is amazing. It’s pure joy when I see him in the ballpark.”
It’s a joy that Cameron feels too.
“I like home runs. I hit a home run, great, good. I love it. I like it,” he said.
But shortly after Cameron finally started batting in recent games, the local league received a safety complaint. Because Cameron is 13 but plays in the 7-11 division due to his developmental delay.
To address that concern, with only a few games left in the regular season, the league said Cameron would no longer be allowed to hit.
Heartbroken by the decision, Cameron missed the rest of his regular season games.
But on Wednesday, just an hour after ABC Action News interviewed Randy and Cameron, we got a call. Randy told ABC Action News reporter Rochelle Alleyne that due to community outcry, the league’s decision was overturned. Cameron would be allowed to play, without restriction, in the playoffs.
His team won that playoff game 12-1 on Thursday and they will play another playoff game on Friday.
Although it’s a win for Cameron this season, his dad says there are still concerns for next season.
Indeed, in order to prevent Cameron from being thrust into middle play, along with other 13-year-old players, the Codys will now have to file a waiver request with Little League International, the group that oversees their home league.
“He can’t just play with kids his own age,” Randy said.
And he tells ABC Action News he fears the league will take a look at his son on paper and refuse that waiver.
He’s now asking the league to work with him, and the parents of other little leaguers with different abilities, to help place them on the best-fit teams.
“The biggest problem isn’t this season,” Randy said. “The biggest problem is not Cameron Cody. The biggest problem is how are we going to change what is being done at the national level, [who is] decide whether the national level will grant an age waiver for a child with a disability to play based on their abilities, and not based on their date of birth declared on paper.”
ABC Action News has reached out to Little League International for comment. They sent us the following statement:
“Little League Southeast Region first learned of this situation earlier this week and is working with Lakewood Ranch Little League to provide guidance and options for Cameron Cody’s continued participation in the program. little league.”
You can read more about Little League International’s disability policy here.