In 2012, the Eastside Catholic baseball team took the program to unprecedented heights.
A Metro League championship, 3A state title game appearance and a host of walk-offs and suspenseful wins were just a few of the highlights on the field. But away from the it, the Crusaders are making sure 2013 will be just as memorable.
On April 20, second-year head coach Kyle Larsen and his team will have an opportunity only a handful of prep squads around the state get each year: to play at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.
The game is against 4A KingCo foe Newport, and is part of a joint-fundraiser with the Mariners that involves selling tickets to a game to raise proceeds. But it also came with the special honor of throwing out the first pitch at another game, April 13 against the visiting Texas Rangers.
Finding someone to throw a ceremonial first pitch on a baseball team seemed like a simple enough proposition, but Larsen’s players had other ideas.
The student they chose was Jane Dickison, a 20-year-old with intellectual disabilities and member of the Eastside Catholic School Options Program.
“We thought it would be really cool to involve someone from the Options program,” Gillespie said.
Designed to give students with special needs a more typical high school experience, Options at EC has been one of the transcendent programs at the school since its inception more than two decades ago. Along with work tailored to their own academic achievement levels, students in the program are enrolled in elective classes with the mainstream student body, participate in Special Olympics sports and part of a peer-tutor program.
Dickison’s mother Terry said throughout her daughter’s time in the program, she has consistently been reminded of the benefits.
“This is what we wanted for our daughter,” she said. “The teachers are wonderful, but I think it is the student-body and whole peer-tutor experience.”
Terry said she still receives calls and emails from former peer-tutors, now graduated from Eastside Catholic and in college, who want to take Jane on outings or celebrate her accomplishments. After a recent dance recital, she said a pair of EC peer-tutors were waiting for Jane when she came off-stage, greeting her with congratulations and flowers.
“On her birthday, her cell phone wouldn’t stop,” she said. “I think it truly comes from their hearts.”
Terry said her daughter is definitely a sports fan and participates in a variety of athletics through Special Olympics. In preparation for the game, she has been working with Foley and Gillespie on her throwing technique.
“We’re all friends and we’re very comfortable working with Options kids,” Foley said. “We just want to get her mind right out there. I think she is going to do great.”
Terry said while her daughter is thrilled with the prospects and the family is exited to share her major league moment, the event is really more of a celebration of her years at Eastside.
“From Day One, it has been an amazing experience,” she said. “It speaks to the whole school and to me, is one of the things that sets Eastside Catholic apart.”
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