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Bradenton boy with Down Syndrome fighting for waiver to keep playing baseball

Bradenton boy with Down Syndrome fighting for waiver to keep playing baseball
Fans show support for little leaguer Cameron Cody
Posted at 11:23 PM, May 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 23:23:44-04

BRADENTON, Fla — They say there's no crying in baseball.

But, Randy Cody said there's often someone inevitably moved to tears when his son Cameron takes the field with his Lakewood Ranch little league team.

"That's the only place in his life where he actually feels equal to the other kids," Randy said.

An equalizer, for the thirteen-year-old with Down syndrome who typically plays with kids younger than him.

"Academically Cameron is a sixth-grader with a first grade to kindergarten intellect," Randy said.

And a teen who has only just gotten the hang of hitting, after five years in the league.

"I have been waiting for Cameron to hit the ball his whole life," Randy laughed, "We practice so hard."

So, you can imagine the excitement when he hit a home run at a recent game.

"I coach third base, and when he hits that ball and he comes rumbling and stumbling around the bases," Randy said. "Like his dexterity is not that great, his coordination is not that great he's not a real fast runner, but he comes around and he's got that huge sweaty smile on his face. I see that joy coming out of this kid that's against all odds with Down syndrome playing in a league with typical kids trying to hit a ball that's being pitched to him and trying to process that actually make contact and he earned to get on base? Oh, it's amazing. It's pure joy when I see him out in the ball field."

It's a joy Cameron, feels too.

"I like home runs. I hit a home run, great, good. I love it. I like it," he said.

But shortly after Cameron finally started hitting at recent games, the local league got a safety complaint. Because Cameron is 13 but plays in the 7-11-year-old division due to his developmental delay.

To remedy that concern, with just a few games left in the regular season, the league said Cameron would no longer be allowed to bat.

Heartbroken by the decision, Cameron missed the rest of his regular-season games.

But then on Wednesday, just an hour after ABC Action News interviewed Randy and Cameron, we got a call. Randy told ABC Action News reporter Rochelle Alleyne that due to community outcry, the league's decision was reversed. Cameron would be allowed to play, without restriction, in the playoffs.

His team won that playoff game 12-1 Thursday and they'll play another playoff game Friday.

Bradenton boy with Down Syndrome fighting for waiver to keep playing baseball

Though this is a win for Cameron this season, his father says there are still some concerns going into next season.

That's because, in order to keep Cameron from being bumped up to intermediate play, with other 13-year-olds, the Cody's will now have to file a waiver request with Little League International—the group that oversees their local league.

"He can't just play with the kids his age," Randy said.

And he tells ABC Action News that he's concerned the league will take one look at his son on paper and deny that waiver.

He's now calling on the league to work with him, and the parents of other little leaguers with different abilities, to help place them on teams that are the best fit.

"The bigger issue is not this season," Randy said. "The bigger issue is not Cameron Cody. The bigger issue is how are we going to change what's being done at the national level, [who is] deciding whether the national level is going to grant an age waiver for a child with a disability to play according to his ability, not according to his stated birthdate on paper."

ABC Action News contacted Little League International for comment. They sent us the following statement:

“The Little League Southeast Region first learned of this situation earlier this week and is working with Lakewood Ranch Little League to provide guidance and options for Cameron Cody's continued participation in the little league program."

You can read more about Little League International's disability policy here.