Opening day for many Major League Baseball teams was this week but it was the last game of spring training for the Washington Nationals that drew attention from the disabled community. Instead of having a famous celebrity or sports personality throw out the opening pitch for the last spring season game, the Nationals chose nine-year-old Robie Whiting to do the honors.
What’s so special about a kid throwing out the first pitch? Whiting has spastic quadriplegia, a condition that is part of his cerebral palsy, and after major surgery in February of 2012 he only started walking just eight months ago. Washington Nationals bench coach Randy Knorr was behind the plate for the ceremonial pitch that led to a standing ovation from the crowd and even members of the media in the press box (cheering in the press box is strictly forbidden). Knorr’s wife, Kimberly, works closely with an organization called Wheelchairs 4 Kids, and her involvement helped get Whiting to the mound.
The Nationals were so touched by the story of Whiting and other children in the Wheelchair 4 Kids program that before their last spring training game they offered up the owner’s suite at the ballpark and assembled several players on the team to meet with the kids, sign autographs and take pictures with the kids. They also prepared goody bags for all the kids. Wheelchairs 4 Kids is a charity organization that assists children who need new wheelchairs and adjustments to their homes or their parent’s vehicles for accessibility.