05/25/04 — Jacob Coley finds way to play his favorite sport, to the cheers of fans

View Archive

Jacob Coley finds way to play his favorite sport, to the cheers of fans

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 25, 2004 2:01 PM

"Jacob!" "Jacob!" "Jacob!"

The chant escalates as the 7-year-old boy on the T-ball field rounds third base and rolls home.

The cheers rise from his teammates, those watching on the sidelines, and even from the opposing team.

It would be fair to say that Jacob Coley has developed a following. And every Friday night on the Grantham ballfield, it is obvious that he has a love of the game.

It is that love that prompted his parents, Tony and Theresa Coley, to do all they could to make the boy's dream come true.

Born prematurely, Jacob has cerebral palsy. His mother says the tone in his legs is too tight and causes his feet to criss-cross or "scissor." Last year, the family bought him an electric wheelchair to get around.

He had hoped to play T-ball then but wasn't proficient enough in driving the wheelchair, Mrs. Coley said.

"He had to adapt," she said. "He can't hold the bat up and only has good use of his left side. He's a little ole thing."

She admits they didn't know what they were doing, but Jacob was so determined to play they didn't have the heart to discourage him. But they were also concerned about his being accepted.

"Kids can be cruel and don't see kids in wheelchairs playing sports," Mrs. Coley said. "To start out, the other kids weren't quite sure about him.

"I was really dreading it, but the community has really been behind him. Kids asked questions; they didn't make fun."

She said her son sees no limitations.

"He doesn't see himself as not being able to do what everybody else does," she said.

They approached the Grantham Sports Association, which offers community T-ball and little league. T-ball is open to everybody and isn't as competitive, says Eric Weeks, coach of the Grantham Bulldogs.

"We don't keep score; we don't keep outs," he said. "Everybody hits, everybody fields, everybody plays."

Weeks said Jacob can't throw a ball or run, but he can hit off the tee.

"He can't hold the bat, but can prop it up against his arm and swing with guidance from his dad," he said. "He makes contact, and the ball goes a little ways."

The real fun begins when Jacob takes off in his wheelchair and rounds the bases, says Weeks.

"There's nothing better than when he rounds third base," he said. "Everybody cheers; his face lights up. It's a real joy to see that."

He said Jacob has stolen the show since he first donned the No. 14 Bulldogs jersey when the season started in April.

"Once he was out there for a couple of practices, the kids saw that he was not doing exactly like everybody else, but they all cheer and just accepted him as part of the team," he said. "The emphasis is not on winning or losing; it's about being on the team."

Weeks says Jacob probably has the most spirit of anybody on his team.

"Even when we would have practice games, he was ready when he got up that day," Weeks said. "He cried at the end of the first game because he didn't want it to be over."

The kindergarten student at Edgewood Community Developmental School says his favorite part is hitting the ball.

"It's fun," he says, his face breaking into a broad grin.

His mother says he also enjoys riding horses, PlayStation, swimming, and doing anything his older brother does. Justin, 13, called "Bubba" by his younger sibling, is a seventh-grader at Grantham School.

"Jacob idolizes Justin, and Justin worships the ground he walks on," Mrs. Coley said.

She says there are a lot of parents that might choose to leave a child like Jacob at home because it would be easier. But the Coleys have chosen to include both boys in everything they do.

The rewards have far outweighed the obstacles, and as her son's season ends with Friday night's game, Mrs. Coley said, she is thankful he has had the opportunity to live out his dream.

"It's been God-sent," she said. "I think it is wonderful that they let us do it."