Virgen: A home run for everyone

April 19, 2014|By Steve Virgen
  • Michael Meer, left, of the District 62 Little League Challenger Division seniro team, dances during the first inning in a game against Costa Mesa American Little League on April 12 at TeWinkle Park in Costa Mesa.
Michael Meer, left, of the District 62 Little League Challenger… (KEVIN CHANG, Daily…)

Natalie Nielsen couldn't hold back as she walked to the plate at TeWinkle Park.

One of her favorite songs played in the background and she started to move and groove. By the time she arrived to the batter's box, the 19-year-old was shaking her bottom and hips, sliding to the left and sliding to the right with her bat in her hands and her body moving to the song, "Cha Cha Slide."

There's a famous line from the entertaining movie, "A League of Their Own," – "There's no crying in baseball." Well, how about dancing?

Nielsen would say, yes. The Fountain Valley resident is part of the District 62 Challenger Division senior team. Nielsen, who is autistic, loves to play baseball with her teammates, and she had a stronger love for the game on April 12, when the District 62 Challenger team played against the Costa Mesa American Little Leaguers. District 62 Challenger Division is made up of players from Huntington Beach, Westminster, Fountain Valley and Costa Mesa.


It was the second game of a four-game series that will take place throughout the season. The kids play under the lights. No one loses, and Nielsen dances.

"She likes to dance," her father, Eric, says. "She enjoys to perform."

In this setting, Natalie Nielsen isn't shy. She wanted the spotlight and she called for it with some attitude.

Parents of children with special needs know that there are good days and some bad days. This would be a good day. Eric Nielsen says he takes life day by day. He said he tries not to look too much into the future for whether Natalie can become independent.

Eric Nielsen also learns from the past, yet there are some moments he'd rather forget, for instance when Natalie hit puberty.

On the baseball diamond at TeWinkle Park, the troubles all seem to go away. Eric Nielsen and the rest of the parents smiled when they watched their children play and have fun.

What a concept. Typical kids learning to play with kids with special needs.

"They're just learning to interact with these guys," said Todd Cowley, president of CMALL. "And, they're learning that these guys are great baseball players too. They're not out here to win. They're just out here to have some fun. Play baseball."

Cowley grew excited when the Challenger Division also wanted to play under the lights when there was talk about playing the series. They'll do it again May 3 and May 17.

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