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Play ball! Homeless Diamond back for a fourth season of Tuesday games

Last Tuesday was a lovely morning for a softball game -- sunny, with no clouds on the horizon. Not in the sky, and not involving the status of Sonny Lawson Field, where the Homeless Diamond was about to begin its fourth season. It was a much more auspicious start to developer/do-gooder/baseball fan Joe Carabello's pet project than last summer, when a renovation project at the field was behind schedule, bogged down by bureaucracy and spring rains, and the start of the games had to be postponed for weeks while the work was finished. But the only obstacle this time came when Carabello arrived at the ballfield at Sonny Lawson Park that morning and found the fence still locked, and had to to wait twenty minutes for a key from the Denver Department of Parks and Recreation, which maintains the field.

"The irony of the vacant ball field and idle homeless community hanging around Sonny Lawson Park inspired the creation of the Homeless Diamond," says Carabello, explaining how he got the idea to start the weekly game. "We recruit participants, provide the ball field, equipment, instruction and supervision."

And the camaraderie and encouragement -- both for players and spectators alike. "This is the first good thing I've seen in this park," said one bicyclist who took a break in his commute to watch the action as the two dozen players went through drills before taking to the field.

"They've gotten so much better," said one regular spectator. "Everybody's hitting!"

The hits were harder, but the turnout was a little light, Carabello noted, encouraging some spectators to step up to the plate. During last year's biggest games, dozens of members of the homeless community would show up for the weekly games -- show up, and then step up to home plate.

But given the success of the past three seasons, Carabello and his crew of volunteers -- this is an all-volunteer effort --are determined to make the Homeless Diamond a hit for another season, and have posted fliers around the neighborhood, where many of the city's homeless providers are located. But you don't have to be homeless to play -- or support the game. Here are the details:

2014 Season Homeless Diamond Softball Workouts and Games

Join other members of the homeless community (men and women) for fun, exercise and fellowship.

All equipment and instruction provided When: Tuesday mornings, 9:00 AM to 10:30 AM Where: Sonny Lawson Park, Park Avenue & California Street Dates: Commencing May 27th, weekly through July 29th

When was the last time you felt the exhilaration of summertime play? Here's your chance to feel the energy and spirit of your childhood and adolescence, and start your morning in a healthy, productive, and fun activity!

Coaches will help you knock the rust off your game while you participate in drills to sharpen your skills in hitting, fielding and throwing. Following the drills, we will play a 5-inning game.

Lunch provided: 10:30-11:00 for participants only

No Playing Experience Necessary

There are other a few details the flier doesn't include. The ball used for the game is both larger and softer than the usual softball -- easier to hit, and less likely to cause injury if you get hit by it. And an inning ends not when both sides have three outs, but after each member of a team's lineup has had a chance to bat. A chance to bat, and a chance returning to a time and place when life's challenges were a little less daunting, even if just for one sunny morning.

For more details, go to homelessdiamonddenver.com. Now, play ball!

From the Calhoun: Wake-up Call archive: " "Sonny Lawson Park: Welcome to the neighborhood."

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