By Stephanie Bertholdo
After several members of the Calabasas High School baseball team were suspended in March for hazing new team members, coach Ed Edsall decided to use the incident to teach the boys a lesson in compassion.
Edsall arranged for the team to play a game of baseball with the Challenge Team in Simi Valley. The Challenge Team comprises students with various degrees of physical and mental disabilities.
The Calabasas players were so impressed by the experience that Edsall decided to make the competition a permanent part of the school's baseball program. The CHS squad has played against the Challenge Team twice, and Edsall expects to schedule one more game before the end of the year.
"The cool thing about it is the first time we went out we were off to a slow start," Edsall said. "I could see the guys were down a little bit."
But competing against other players with special abilities put "everything in perspective," for the Calabasas team, he said.
"For them to see baseball— kids playing purely for the love of the game—was really refreshing," the coach said.
"It's easy to lose sight of why you play the game and why we all love the game so much to begin with," he said.
Players on the Challenge team arrived early dressed in their uniforms and didn't care about winning or losing.
"I was impressed with how our players handled the game," Edsall said. "They showed maturity."
Playing ball with the special students allowed the Calabasas athletes to reassess what was important in life.
"It was a great and amazing experience," Jordan Pollack said. "It made us feel good to be a part of something so extraordinary."
Adam Silverman was taken by the kids' "priceless smiles" that "showed us how much they loved the game of baseball."
Adam Landecker said the experience was "rewarding and enjoyable," because the kids showed so much enthusiasm for the game.
During one activity, each Calabasas player was paired with a member of the Challenge team to help them field balls, run the bases and have a good time.
"I felt like (Challenger baseball) brought our team closer together, and at the same time we did a really nice thing," said Dalton Saberhagen.
Next year, the freshman, junior and varsity teams will alternate playing the Challenge games each weekend.
By Stephanie Bertholdo