Michiana Cruisers Gold: Extra Mission: Disability Awareness


The girls on this Michiana Cruisers team have chosen to carry with them an extra mission as they travel to their tournaments and attend various softball events.  The organization's overall mission is to provide the opportunities for standout players in our community to advance their softball skills and to play beyond the high school level or at the collegiate level if that is their desire, by providing them with a top-notch coaching staff, continual development of their skills, and attendance at some of the best competetive and exposure tournaments in the country where their talents will be used and recognized.  Through this process and through the attendance at high levels of competition, the girls will always strive for higher potentials and will be continually refining their skills, and most, if not all, of the players, have the hopes that they will be successful in obtaining a college scholarship or be offered a position to play ball at a level beyond high school even if a scholarship is not available. 

However, as part of an additional mission, the girls have chosen to take with them another value or goal, unrelated to softball, which is due to their appreciation of their own talents, as well as their appreciation of the different talents and love that each person in this world has to share with others, talents and love which often go ignored, unrecognized or misunderstood.  These girls have chosen to have as an extra mission to spread the awareness and understanding of persons with disabilities.  These girls want to spread this awareness everywhere they go, everywhere they travel for their tournaments, and everywhere they attend softball events. 

Katie in Little League Challenger

As one of the disability awareness programs in which they would like to assist, these girls have chosen Down's Syndrome Awareness.  The month of October is special for that group, for it is the nationally-recognized month for celebrating the National Down's Syndrome Awareness campaign. 

The girls will be spreading the awareness and understanding of persons with disabilities and will carry some of the logos, including the Down's Syndrome Awareness logos seen on this page, to the places they go.  They will be involved with some community service projects with children with disabilities, including, but not limited to, assisting with some events for the Little League's disability program, known as the "Challenger Program".  Some players may personally carry the thought of those with disabilities as their inspiration to play softball or their inspiration to always use their talents to the very best of their abilities . 

The players will also be personally involved with some children with disabilities, including Katie Gillis, who has Down's Syndrome, and some of her friends who have a range of disabilities.  Katie is age 11, the 5th of 7 children, she is a younger sister of players Angela and Maria Gillis, the daughter of Manager Pete Gillis, and Katie will be present at many activities.  Another supporter of the Cruisers will be 10-year-old James Amodei, younger brother of player Ellen and son of Coach Mike Amodei, who is an avid sports fan and himself a Little League participant. James has a special need called Non-Verbal Learning Disability, which is on the autism spectrum. While James is adept at learning things verbally (for example, he has memorized all the World Series winners, facts about Notre Dame football), he has more difficulty in communicating through non-verbal clues like facial expressions, tone of voice, and the like.  Click here to read the recent South Bend Tribune article about James.

James, shown playing Pac Man on a handheld video game at home in South Bend, remembers information that he hears but has trouble learning from written material.

The girls sincerely hope that all those whom they touch with this news will, likewise, spread the awareness and understanding of persons with disabilites, so that now, and in the future, these persons will be accepted into our communities and be given the best opportunities to live as normal of a lifestyle as their abilities allow.

To learn more about Down's Syndrome, please visit the local organization, Michiana Down's Syndrome Family Support & Advocacy Group, or visit the many links available through their website's Resources and Info page. 

To learn more about Autism and Global Delays, please visit Hannah & Friends, A 501(c)(3) nonprofit foundation dedicated to providing a better quality of life for children and young adults affected by Autism and Global Delays.                

Hannah & Friends Nonprofit Foundation improving the quality of life for children and young adults affected by Autism and Global Delays

To learn more about general disabilities, visit Logan Center, a local organization which offers programs and activites for people with mental and physical disabilities.

Click here to learn about Music Healing Programs, and click here to learn more about the Non Verbal Learning Disability.


Read the recent advice shared by Coach Meagan Ruthrauff to our players:
I think the best lesson I ever learned growing up playing ball was when I was at UCLA camp when I was 9.  Lisa Fernandez and the UNLV head coach at the time were coaching my team.  The most eye opening thing that Fernandez said was, "Never let anyone or anything dictate the player you want to be.  The minute you let that happen, is the minute you stop getting better."  I have always tried to live life by that motto, and I truly believe that is the reason why I had the opportunity to play at Notre Dame, and make it through 4 years of playing collegiate ball.  Everyday I worked out I used that as my inspiration.  And I got to say, you can't make it through unless you have some inspiration of your own.  For me it was Lisa Fernandez saying that famous line when I was 9. For a teammate at Notre Dame, she used ball to get an education like Notre Dame because she came from a poor family and wanted to better her future and her family's future.  You have to play this game for a purpose, and that is what drives you to want to play at the most competitive level.  You work hard because it is a part of who you are, and fulfilling that inspiration, that gives you meaning in your life.  I may be going over the top here, but it is very true.

So I guess what I am asking is, What is your purpose for playing ball, and it just can't be about getting a scholarship, it has to be deeper than that.  Is there someone or something special that inspires you?  I can tell you if I did not have inspiration, there is no way I would have had the same work ethic growing up.  So that is something to think about and explore.

Centerfield (Let's Go!)