ARCH Exhibition Game Still a Winner for ‘Lopes, Special-Needs Adults
Story by Michael Ferraresi
GCU News Bureau
Photos by Jak Keyser
The ballplayers trotted onto their home field at Brazell Stadium in their purple and black uniforms.
Their opponents – many grinning from ear to ear – took the same field in T-shirt jerseys, jeans, cargo shorts and accessories that ranged from a SpongeBob SquarePants cap to bright red Chicago Bulls socks.
Wednesday’s annual softball exhibition game between the GCU baseball team and the special-needs adults from the Arizona Recreation Center for the Handicapped (ARCH) provided a colorful reminder about how sport has the power to unite people.
GCU has hosted the event for several years, giving the physically- and mentally-challenged adults the thrill of connecting with a pitch or throwing out a baserunner on a big-time field. The game went two innings, with Antelope ballplayers tied together in pairs around their ankles to level the playing field.
“Their loyalty to us and our loyalty to them has played a big role,” said Alex Guerra, a day program coordinator for ARCH.
“GCU’s baseball program has always been more than willing to help,” said Guerra, who first began volunteering with ARCH when he was 10 years old.
After shouting the batting order from the visitor’s dugout, Guerra watched as his uncle, Rudy Guerra, the team’s catcher, caught a GCU player’s foul popup for the final out of the game. Rudy jumped around behind home plate, clutching the ball with his arms raised high over his head, as his teammates cheered and celebrated the victory.
ARCH is one of only a few organizations of its kind in the U.S. that provides a full line of day-camp programs for special-needs adults. The west Phoenix center “is committed to providing services and programs which enable handicapped individuals to obtain higher levels of physical well-being, pride, independence, and self-esteem,” according to its website.
Special-needs adults have attended ARCH programs since 1975. Aside from volleyball, basketball, football and other sports, attendees enjoy major field trips to destinations such as Hawai’i and the East Coast. The non-profit organization also trains participants for the Special Olympics.
Former GCU physical education instructor Malcolm “Mac” Sloan helped foster the relationship between ARCH and the University after noting ARCH day-trippers’ deep interest in baseball. Former GCU baseball player Marcus Edel previously served as ARCH’s director of health and wellness.
For ARCH day-campers, Wednesday’s game was a chance to connect with one another as teammates, to high-five and enjoy their day on the field.
“It’s fun and it keeps me healthy,” said Charles Richey, 54, who played third base for the ARCH team.
Barry Auguste, 35, a native of the cricket-crazed Caribbean nation of Trinidad, said he looked forward to ARCH day-trips like Wednesday’s.
“It gets us more experience,” he said. “We have fun with all the activities.”
Contact Michael Ferraresi at 639.7030 or firstname.lastname@example.org.