401 A League of Our Own recently kicked off its second spring season of buddy ball in Cranston, and has already seen an increase in participants in the early going.
Buddy ball pairs children with disabilities with partners without disabilities, working together to learn the ropes of baseball in a friendly, team environment.
401 A League of Our Own was created and is run by Nina Fiasconaro, a New York native who relocated to Rhode Island three years ago. When arriving in RI, Fiasconaro began searching for sports leagues that accommodated people with disabilities for her son who is a non-walker, non-talker.
After struggling to find a suitable league in the area, Fiasconaro and a small team of locals decided to create their own league and created 401 A League of Our Own.
“This is a skill-building league. We don’t keep score, we are one team, and we’re geared toward children of all disabilities and their siblings,” said Fiasconaro. “There are a lot of kids out there that can’t do this by themselves. Whether it be their physical limitations, we have a large Autistic population that needs queuing and coaching on how to run the bases, balance the ball on the tee. I said, ‘I bet if we start this then it will all come together.’ Mayor Fung and Cranston West has graciously allowed us to use their field at this time. I am a marketer, I began sharing it on social media, I built it and people came.”
The league plays during the spring months of May and June, as well as September and October in the fall. The league now hosts 100 participants, and Fiasconaro expects to see the numbers continue to rise moving forward.
“It’s building. This is a free program that is open to everyone in Rhode Island. It’s a word of mouth thing, a lot of people in this community are gun shy, but when they start hearing about our acceptance and how we don’t discriminate based on a person’s disabilities, they’ll start coming out,” said Fiasconaro. “We have already seen many different disabilities come, whether they are cancer survivors, autistic, physically handicapped, I tell everyone to come and try.”
The league is always looking for new members, and hopes to see 401 A League of Our Own become the top buddy ball program in RI.
“This is a program that I think will continue to build and grow, I hope it will. In October of last year we held a Halloween event and a bunch of people came just to see what it was about. Once they came, they immediately felt accepted and now a lot of them are playing this spring,” said Fiasconaro. “We are now featured in disability journals, more people have been reaching out, it’s really starting to catch on. I know the Cranston West coaches are going to try to encourage their players to get involved to be buddies, so I expect the community to continue to be involved.”
For more information on 401 A League of Our Own, check out their Facebook page or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.