Special Olympics Exeter & District and Exeter Spitfires Baseball & Softball Club – October 2013
Two sports clubs in Exeter are celebrating after being awarded grants by the Express & Echo and Exeter City Council Sports Foundation.
Both Special Olympics Exeter & District and Exeter Spitfires Baseball & Softball Club have been handed £350.
And both groups intend to buy specialist equipment with the cash to help improve what they can offer to members.
The baseball club reformed a year ago when chairman Neale Raleigh realised there were other teams in Devon.
The club folded around a decade ago, when their nearest away game was in Bristol. But after teams started in Plymouth and Torbay, Raleigh and other club officials are now trying to help get a side up and running in Taunton to get a fifth club in the South West League.
He said: “This time last year I found out teams had started playing in Torbay and Plymouth, with a team in Bristol as well, so I wanted to get the Exeter team going again.
“I got four or five of the old players from 10 years ago together and we started practicing and we booked some training sessions for after Christmas and got 12-14 players coming along.
“We played in the South West Baseball League this year and also ran two children’s programmes, one in St Luke’s school and one at St Peter’s.
“We were part of the after-school clubs at the schools and raised two teams, one from each school, and they ended up playing each other.”
With the £350 they have been awarded, the club intends to buy a full catcher’s kit for a child – an adult has been filling that position so far due to a lack of protective gear – and will also buy either a proper set of bases or helmets and bats for adults to use.
Special Olympics Exeter & District started in January this year as chairman Paul Gray wanted to get a club for people with learning disabilities established in the city, having help coach at one in Plymouth.
They now have around 40 members aged between 15 and 25 and meet every Thursday at the Stansfield Centre on Sowton Industrial Estate.
As well as offering a fun introduction to a range of sports, club coaches will also help anyone who wants to compete in a sport.
“We can do a variety of sports in the sports hall, whatever people want to do,” said Gray.
“We occasionally get specialist coaches in. The other week we had a golf coach who came in. It was a fun session but you are also learning the basics at the same time.
“We have coaches at the club that can get people started in various sports and they see what they enjoy and what they are good at.
“If people just want to have fun that’s great, but if they want to take a sport a bit further we can offer coaching on a different night.
“We have already had people who have won medals in badminton and athletics this year, and we have gone all over the country for competitions.”
On the club’s shopping list of things to buy with the grant is specialist equipment for boccia so that people with limited movement in wheelchairs can also take part as well as some indoor athletics equipment.