Junior Grizzlies Program Alive and Well

June 7, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Some major league kindness, patience, and unwavering support from the Fresno Grizzlies transformed Chukchansi Park into a field of dreams for around 150 Junior Grizzlies last weekend.

"We stretch them a little bit. We challenge them. And yet we have fun. It's key to have fun. It's a privilege to be a part of this and we thank the Big Grizzlies for this league." said Junior Grizzlies volunteer Guy Graham.

The Junior Grizzlies is a non-competitive league for athletes with mental and physical disabilities that just completed its seventh year of playing at Gateway High School in Clovis. That's seven years of priceless high fives, laughs and smiles.

"It's just amazing meeting the Big Grizzlies. They are so generous with these children. I just thank them so much." said Junior Grizzlies parent Dawn Barba.

"The opportunity for the kids to interact with the guys that they watch in the field night and night out - it's great." Fresno Grizzlies spokesman Chris Kutz added.

But on this Sunday morning, it was tough to tell who had more fun as every single big grizzly on the roster joined their special guests on the field for this year's home run derby.

"We had a night game last night and an early game today. It didn't matter. They were all here. Right from the first pitch to the end. Two hours before game time and they're still here playing with the kids on the field." said Kutz.

"They remembered Phillip from last year and that's just amazing to me that they knew his name. And some of the other kids, they knew their names and they knew how they batted." added Barba.

Dawn Barba's six year old son Phillip has already been through four open heart surgeries. But you couldn't tell on this day. Not by size of his smile.

"It was really fun, we got to get some autographs, we get to bat and get some trophies." said Phillip Barba.

And now comes the challenging part: passing the time until the Junior Grizzlies start up again next March. And for one special day, he got to play his favorite game right alongside his heroes.


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