Mets host Wheelchair Sports Federation softball game and clinic for District 75 students with disabilities

Photo by Ethan Marshall

The New York Mets hosted their annual Wheelchair Softball Clinic Tuesday at the Citi Field parking lot, where the playing field of Shea Stadium once stood.

Members of the Wheelchair Sports Federation played a softball game before helping to facilitate a clinic for approximately 100 students with disabilities from District 75 public schools. They were joined in these clinics by former Met and current SNY analyst Todd Zeile and three-time Paralympic Sledge Hockey Gold Medal winner Adam Page.

Photo by Ethan Marshall

The clinic involved helping and encouraging the kids as they hit off a tee, ran the bases and threw balls at a targeted hole.

Photo by Ethan Marshall

“This [event] is unbelievable. For the Mets to recognize the sport is incredible,” said Joe LeMarr, who has been playing softball as part of the Wheelchair Sports Federation since 2008. “This is our way of being able to play. This is an event that should be held in every major league stadium. Sports are for everybody. There is a way for everybody to get out, no matter what their ability is, to compete in what they want to do.”

Photo by Ethan Marshall

LeMarr also emphasized the camaraderie among the Wheelchair Sports Federation’s athletes across the country. He said just about everyone knows each other or at least knows someone else who knows another person.

Photo by Ethan Marshall

Page praised the Mets for organizing this event to support the community, as well as paralympic sports. “Having the kids and players be able to be a part of something is really special,” Page said. “To be able to see that here today and the smiles on their faces is awesome. It’s great to create awareness, to let people with disabilities know that there are sports available for them and it’s very fun to do and participate in.”

When speaking to the kids, Page, who was born with hydrocephalus and spina bifida, a birth defect caused by the vertebrae not completely forming, discussed how his love of sports was formed. His father took him to a Buffalo Sabres NHL game when he was three years old, and he quickly became fascinated with hockey.

“I just loved how fast-paced it was and the hitting,” Page said. “I didn’t just sit there and watch the game; I was always asking my dad questions about the sport.”

When he was little, Page played several adaptive sports, including Challenger Little League Baseball, karate, and horseback riding. But he was most passionate about sledge hockey. By the age of 11, he began participating in a development camp for the United States Sledge Hockey team. Eventually, after a lot of training, he made the national team at the age of 15, becoming one of the youngest to make the team.

Three-time Gold Medal-winning Paralympian Adam Page addresses the kids at the wheelchair softball clinic. Photo by Ethan Marshall

“Find something that you love to do,” Page said to the kids at the clinic. “It doesn’t even have to be sports. Just find something to do that you’re passionate about in life and that you have fun with, and give 100% to that. You’re going to get that much more out of it, whatever you put into it.

The Mets held this clinic in partnership with the Wheelchair Sports Federation and the Mets Accessibility and Disability Alliance Employee Resource Group. The Amazing Mets Foundation also sponsored this event.

“I love seeing the smiles on the faces, not only of the kids, but the adults that do this,” Zeile said. “The Amazing Mets Foundation has dedicated themselves to causes in the community that I think are very important. I feel fortunate that they asked me to be here. When you have the opportunity to come and see a big league ballpark and celebrate whatever you do in the shadow of that ballpark, it definitely has an impact.”

Former Met Todd Zeile (right) looks on as kids try to throw the softball through the hole. Photo by Ethan Marshall

For Zeile, this marked the third consecutive year in which he has taken part in this event. He said that while the Mets may currently be going through some tough times, he intends to bring the positive energy experienced at the clinic to his work in covering the team, with the hope that attitude can also make its way to the players themselves.

Photo by Ethan Marshall