On Sept. 14, the Seton Hall softball team hosted adults from the Devereux House New Jersey for a special practice at Mike Sheppard Sr. Field.
Devereux Advanced Behavioral Health is one of the largest and most advanced behavioral healthcare organizations in the country. The team welcomed the adults, many of whom have intellectual and developmental disabilities, autism and other behavioral and emotional challenges, for a day of fun on the diamond.
“Sharing what we do with Devereux is a gift on both sides,” Pirates coach Paige Smith said. “This is the second year that we have hosted an activity day on our field and on both occasions, I’ve been amazed at my team’s ability to connect with each individual in a special way.”
The Pirates showed the Devereux adults around the field with instructional stations for hitting, throwing and running the bases.
“To put it simply, it was a lot of fun,” shortstop Emily Supercynski said. “I think the best part is that Devereux comes in and they’re really competitive, but they have fun at the same time. They really want to win but they really want to have fun and I think that’s something that we always take away from it.”
The experience was an exceptionally special day for senior Madison Strunk, who is studying to be an occupational therapist.
“Today and last season when we got to work with the adults here has just been amazing; it’s something that I have a passion for,” Strunk said. “I love working with children and adults with disabilities. The joy they had working with us and getting to play ball is really touching to me. Just seeing the impact that we have on someone with something so simple, I feel fulfilled when I’m done with this day, so it’s awesome.”
For freshmen Kiana Tate and Nicole Gravagna, their first time working with the adults from Devereux was an eye-opening experience.
“It’s really inspiring to be able to share what we do on a daily basis with other people and really help them experience what we experience,” Tate said.
“I think today shows that softball is more than a game. It’s about the people you meet, the experiences you have, and the lessons you learn,” Gravagna said. “It was amazing to have today and show them what Seton Hall softball is all about.”
Many of the Devereux adults were familiar faces to the team following last year’s visit, and those who returned were eager to pick up where they left off.
“We had a number of repeat Devereux clients at the field. It warmed my heart that they remembered us. In fact, Chuck came right into the field, grabbed a bat, a tee and a ball and took off for home plate to show us his skills,” Smith said.
The practice was also a time for the Pirates to grow together as a team while helping those less fortunate.
“As a team it’s nice because we get closer with each other,” Supercynski said. “We see different sides of each other that we don’t always see on the field and it’s just such a great environment to have.
More than anything, the Seton Hall and Devereux joint practice was a time to relax and enjoy the little things in life.
“We become so stressed with deadlines, schedules and assignments that we forget the fun,” Smith said. “Chuck, Denise, Alyssa and many of the other Devereux clients remind us that softball is just the fun thing we get to do, not who we are – and in my opinion, this team is a collection of great humans.”
“This event puts our hearts under the spotlight,” Smith added. “I’m so proud to be a part of this team.”
Nicholas Santoriello can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NickSantoriello.