DePaul Stumbles Across Neighbors in NYC
CHICAGO - In a recent trip to New York City, the DePaul volleyball team got the unique opportunity to cheer on athletes in the Ninth Annual Major League Wheelchair Softball Tournament. The tournament, in affiliation with the Wheelchair Sports Federation, was held outside Citi Field in Queens, the home of the New York Mets.
The six-team tournament featured teams from various MLB affiliates, including the Chicago Cubs, New York Mets, New York Yankees, Boston Redsox and Colorado Rockies.
Wheelchair softball was started over 25 years ago in the Midwest by a few individuals with spinal cord injuries and lower extremity impairments, who still wanted to enjoy America's greatest pastime. In order to accommodate wheelchair mobility, the game was moved from a grassy infield to a hard surface diamond, such as a parking lot. A 16-inch softball was used to allow for wheelchair players to keep one hand on the wheelchair while catching the softball without a glove.
In 1976, the National Wheelchair Softball Association (NWSA) was founded and serves as the governing body for wheelchair softball in the US. The game is played under the official rules of 16-inch slow pitch softball as approved by the Amateur Softball Association of America with some exceptions gear toward the wheelchair user.
Today, NWSA governs over 30 teams nationwide, including several teams that have sought and found allegiance and sponsorship with their Major League Baseball counterparts. The volleyball team was lucky enough to catch some Chicago RIC Cubs action, as they faced off against the New York Mets. The Cubs entered the tournament as the top seed, but fell into the loser's bracket early on. The Cubs were able to climb back out to find themselves in the title match against Colorado. The Rockies took home the title in extra innings.
"The wheelchair softball games were some of the most inspiring sporting events I have ever witnessed," commented junior middle blocker Kate Letcher, "The level of competition was intense, but so was the sportsmanship and camaraderie. You could tell that every player really had a passion for playing the game."
The Cubs reciprocated the hometown support by cheering on the Blue Demons in their match against St. John's. The Rockies, who feature several native Chicagoans, were also in attendance.
DePaul hits the road this weekend for a pair of matches against West Virginia on Oct. 16, followed by an Oct. 18 contest at Pittsburgh.