Lincoln Wood and Shriners Baseball Classic are winning combo
At just 9 years old, Lincoln Wood owns a checked-off bucket list that any baseball fan would envy.
He has stepped on the field of big-league diamonds like Minute Maid Park and college venues such as Baylor Ballpark. He has conversed with pro and college ballplayers alike. He even made an appearance on the MLB Network. Yet when one of Lincoln’s classmates says, “You’re so lucky,” his parents find themselves biting their tongues.
“Yes, he’s had some opportunities that not every kid has had, but he’d trade them all for the ability to run or to jump,” said Lincoln’s father Larry. “He’s been at school before and gotten tired and had to go sit down in his wheelchair and the kids have said, ‘Lincoln gets to sit down, he is so lucky.’ But it’s not always that fun.”
Lincoln has arthrogryposis, a congenital joint condition that attacks one’s extremities. In his particular case, he’s not able to bend his knees. Over the course of his young life, Lincoln has endured 13 surgeries, most recently in January.
Fortunately, Lincoln doesn’t let the occasional lack of understanding cloud his outlook. He keeps an upbeat attitude, and possesses a good sense of humor.
Moreover, he really does appreciate the opportunities he’s afforded, like the chance to play baseball at Baylor Ballpark.
For the fifth straight year, Baylor will host the Shriners Hospitals for Children Baseball Classic on Saturday. More than 150 kids from Little League’s Challenger Division will take part in the five-game event. By now, you’ve probably heard of the Challenger Division, but just in case: It’s a separate Little League division for kids with physical and mental challenges. Since its founding in 1989, it has grown to include more than 30,000 kids worldwide.
In seven years, the Shriners Baseball Classic—the event predated Baylor’s involvement by a couple of years—has fast become one of the sweetest, most rewarding spring traditions in Central Texas. You could attend the day-long tournament every year for a decade, and I promise you, it would never get old.
The smiles stretch from one corner of the outfield fence to the other.
“You put in a lot of work to make these events happen,” said Dustin Johnson, sports marketing director for Shriners Hospitals for Children. “But the moment that a kid walks up to home plate, with his picture on the Jumbotron, that’s when you know it’s all worth it. Seeing their faces is so rewarding. Even the parents—they’re out there taking pictures of their kids’ pictures on the video board.”
Have you ever awakened from a dream and struggled to compre-hend exactly where you were? The dream felt so vivid, so lifelike. Now that you’re “awake” - the forecast is still partly cloudy—you’re wondering what happened to that purple tiger that your high school typing teacher was riding. It was, like, just here.
Here’s where I’m going with this analogy. At the Shriners Baseball Classic, you don’t have to wake up. The dreamlike state lingers, only better. The tagline for this year’s event is “Dreams Become Reality,” and the expressions of the ballplayers routinely reflect that ideal.
If you don’t tingle at the beaming face of a wheelchair-bound tyke who just tagged his first career hit, your tingle detector needs a tune-up, my friend.
The college players get it. That’s for sure. Baylor’s ballplayers will again lend their services Saturday, as they’ve done for the past several years. Their own faces suggest that they’re having as much fun as the kids. And if that doesn’t convince you, just check out their Twitter accounts later, when they’re posting well wishes directed to and photos of their new friends.
Friends like Lincoln Wood. Lincoln and his family live in Bandera, a small town of about 900 people, some 40 miles northwest of San Anto-nio. A little more than four years ago, the Wood family began traveling to Shriners Hospitals in Houston for Lincoln’s medical care. Through those visits, they met Johnson and learned about the Shriners Baseball Classic event.
This year will mark Lincoln’s fourth time playing. He’s a wily veteran now.
You won’t find a more passionate Baylor baseball fan. And vice versa, really. When Lincoln underwent surgery in January, with doctors cutting through his humerus bone in an attempt to help his hand turn at a useable angle, he had a green-and-gold fan club rooting him on.
“The team got together, and they took a team picture holding signs saying, ‘Go Lincoln!’” Larry said. “Then they sent a box filled with letters and notes, as well as posters and hats and all kinds of stuff. They really went above and beyond.”
Saturday’s event is free to the public, yet still serves as a key fundraiser for Shriners Hospitals for Children. Patrons may donate money at the event or online at support.shrinershospitals.org/Baylor. Donations can even be made in honor of a Baylor player or coach.
It’s a worthy cause, for sure. Though it’s hard to put a price on the event itself, given the way it directly impacts real folks.
“As parents, it’s great to watch my son play baseball, just as any dad would want to,” Larry Wood said. “Having kids with disabilities is not cheap. My family has been blessed, I own my own company, but some of these illnesses can really take a financial toll on families, with things like $8,000 wheelchairs and constant trips to the hospital.”
“So for these families and the kids, it’s nice to just go somewhere and enjoy a weekend together.”
For at least one day, they’re all living the dream.
Cherry, Brice. “Lincoln Wood and Shriners Baseball Classic Are Winning Combo.” Waco Tribune Herald 06 May 2016. Web. 31 May 2016
For more information, please visit www.ShrinersBaseball.com.