HOUSTON - An adaptive sports team in Houston is getting back in the game after nearly two years of having to sit on the sidelines.
The "Rollin' Astros" are serious about softball. The team is also talented.
"Getting out there, getting on the field, even if it’s just throwing balls to each other, it’s good to feel as a part of a team," says player Andy Toppin.'
Recently, they got the word from the National Softball Association that the 2021 World Series Tournament is back on. The team has had only a couple of weeks to scramble to create a lineup and dust off their gear to get ready for their trip to Biloxi, Mississippi.
"Usually they have almost 30 teams. Japan’s been there multiple times, and this year they ended up with between 15 and 18 teams," explains team manager Erik Mendez who heads the Houston Adapted Sports Club."This time, it’s going to be a little different because our first full practice is going to be our first game."
The team will start ranked in the top ten from the last time they played in the tournament two years ago. It was also the last time they competed or held practice.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been harder on adaptive sports that are often mental and social sustenance for players.
"It’s been tough to not have that kind of preparation and also not have that camaraderie with the team throughout the year," says Toppin.
As other sports started to come back, adaptive athletes have had to wait longer for special facilities to reopen.
"We don’t have the availability of just saying, ‘hey, we’ll go meet up at the park' because of our wheelchairs and everything," says Mendez. "We have to be able to have the space to play."
Around the world, athletes with disabilities also hope to draw attention back to their sports during the Tokyo Paralympics which start August 24.
The Rollin' Astros are hoping some of that attention comes in the form of financial aid after not being able to traditionally fundraise for their trip.
"Before, we could try to do a barbecue fundraiser and different things like that, but COVID has been real difficult to be able to put on those types of things," says Mendez. "Sometimes we would even collect on the street, and all that’s been really difficult this year."
The NWSA World Series Tournament starts August 12th, the team manager’s birthday. His wish is to get back on the softball field to see his teammates knock it out of the park.
The players have received help from the Astros Foundation and a local Baskin Robbins shop, but they are still short of raising enough money to pay for transportation for the players to bring both their everyday and sports wheelchairs.
To donate, please contact Erik Mendez through their Facebook page.