Edison Buddy Ball continues to thrive

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — An intriguing situation fell into Len Stein’s lap 12 years ago that he couldn’t ignore.

Stein, a resident of Edison, was volunteering his services to help raise money to build a parking lot for North Edison Baseball and Softball League. As a member of the North Edison Baseball and Softball League, Stein decided to stage an oldies concert to help raise funds. At the time of organizing the event, Stein heard a story from local radio station WCTC that demanded his attention.

"The disc jockey on the local station was speaking about a young boy from East Brunswick that had his electric wheelchair stolen," Stein said. "The radio station was raising funds, and I decided to ask our baseball and softball league if we could donate some of the proceeds from the oldies concert to the child, and the league agreed."

The East Brunswick resident was able to get a replacement wheelchair along with a special gift from North Edison Baseball and Softball.

"At little league, we live for trophies," Stein said. "I thought, ‘Now, here is a young man that probably never received a trophy in his life.’ "

Stein and the league presented the trophy, but quickly learned it was not the child’s first.

"The young boy was a member of a league for children of special needs in East Brunswick," Stein said. "I thought about the possibility of starting such a league here in Edison when I found this out. My wife teaches special education in the Edison school district, and I decided to go through the school."

Stein’s efforts generated enough interest to field two baseball teams in the inaugural year of Edison Buddy Ball 12 years ago. After more than a decade, Stein is still president of the league he founded and the league has continued to grow.

"The league is for children ages six and older, and there is no fee," Stein said. "They can live anywhere in the United States just as long as they can get to us."

This spring’s baseball league was comprised of four teams, and each team played 12 games this season.

"In the past we’ve had more teams and fewer teams," Stein said. "The important part of this league is that there are no more sidelines. Before, many of these kids never got passed the sidelines, and were forced to watch their siblings playing soccer and baseball."

The league gets its name from the support of volunteers that assist the athletes with fundamentals and regulations.

"The league really depends on buddies," Stein said. "A buddy is someone that is at least 12 years of age, and reminds the children of basic skills such as the right direction to run first base and not to use hands in soccer. Adults are more than welcome to become a buddy, too."

With the baseball season concluded this weekend, Edison Buddy Ball is set to begin its bowling league June 23. For the next six weeks bowlers will meet at Brunswick Lanes on Oak Tree Lane 6 p.m. Wednesdays.

For Stein, the important thing is allowing the children of special needs to have fun and enjoy sports while keeping the cost free to parents.

"Parents of children of special needs incur costs of child rearing that other parents simply do not," Stein said. "The city of Edison is very kind to provide a stipend to the league, and the Edison PBA and Edison Elks provide most of the funding. As a result, at the end of each season each child gets to keep his or her new uniform and is awarded a trophy."

In 12 years, the league has grown to incorporate a soccer season that runs from September to November, and a basketball season that begins in January and finishes prior to the baseball season begins in April.

The Edison Buddy Ball league currently has more than 200 athletes in the league and is always looking for more athletes and buddies.