First pitch honors
April 30, 2013
By Lillian O'Rorke
Eastside Catholic High School’s baseball team goes to pinch pitcher for Mariner’s pregame ceremony
It wasn’t a hall-of-famer, a politician or a rock star that threw the first pitch of the Mariners’ home game April 13. It was Jane Dickison, a 20-year-old developmentally disabled woman from Sammamish.
The honor was originally offered to the Eastside Catholic High School baseball team. Instead of choosing from among themselves, the boys decided to offer the opportunity to one of their classmates in the school’s Options Program, which provides instruction for students with developmental disabilities. Dickison is in her final year of the program and was selected for the spot on the mound.
“We thought it would be awesome to give someone with disabilities the opportunity to do something like this they couldn’t be able to do otherwise,” said Alex Foley, of Issaquah, one of the team’s four co-captains. Foley has already played at Safeco Field in the Mariners High School Baseball Classic and was set to do so again April 20, when the Eastside Catholic Crusaders were going to faceoff against Newport.
“We get the opportunity no matter what, but an Options student wouldn’t,” he added.
This wasn’t the first time Jane met the boys. For the past four years, the Crusaders have volunteered with the Special Olympics and many of the team members, including co-captains Hayden Meier, of Sammamish, and Foley, also work as peer tutors in the Options Program.
In the weeks leading up to the April 13 game, Foley, Meier and their teammate Blake Gillespie met with Dickison four times after school to hone her pitching skills. The boys had planned more training sessions, but it soon became apparent they weren’t necessary.
“She did great the first time we went out,” Foley said. “She would have been ready to go after one practice. She is a good listener.”
Dickison was already an athlete. As a little girl, she played T-ball and softball. She also regularly competes in the Special Olympics. Right now, she’s playing soccer, but her winter sport, basketball, is No. 1 in her heart, her mother Terry Dickison said. So, when her daughter found that someone from the Options Program would get to throw the first pitch at a Mariners game, she didn’t hesitate.
“Jane, of course, jumped right in,” Terry said. “She loves all sports. And, of course, she can be fairly fearless.”
The same was not true for Jane’s parents.
“Her dad and I were worried. Safeco Field is a big deal,” Terry said. “I was a nervous wreck.”
When the big day came, Terry recalled that her daughter told her, “I’m not scared. My friends are with me.”
Foley, who is usually the starting, left-handed pitcher for the Eastside Catholic Crusaders, took his spot behind the Mariners’ home plate and waited for Jane to do her thing. Just as they practiced, Jane hurled the ball into Foley’s glove.
“It was pretty nice and awesome, and I wasn’t really scared,” Jane said. “It was pretty hard, but Alex helped me through it.”
Since Jane proved to already be pretty good at throwing the ball, much of the preparation was just the boys making sure that she knew, step-by-step, what to expect that day, Terry explained.
Terry added that she was overwhelmed and touched by the team’s choice to hand over the opportunity to her daughter. However, she said, she wasn’t surprised by the boys.
“That’s the way they live. That is their inner beauty,” she explained. “The team is a beautiful group of boys, and they represent the culture of Eastside Catholic.”
The Options Program and its students aren’t just a side note at the school, she added, but an important part of the student body.
“They are loved and embraced,” she said. “They appreciate them, they value them, they learn from them.”