Kansas Boy Honored for Winning Legal Fight to Play Baseball
Matthew Whaley just wanted to play baseball with his friends. But it took a federal lawsuit before the 8-year-old with cerebral palsy could join the lineup on his summer baseball team in Scott City, Kan.
Whaley and his legal victory was honored Thursday night in Washington by a national disability rights group celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
His mother, Jennifer Berends, said she is proud to share Matthew's story if it can help make a difference for other people with disabilities.
"All along, it was about Matthew just getting to do what the other kids were doing," Berends said.
Last summer, Matthew told his mother he wanted to play baseball with his older brother - who is not disabled - on a youth team for boys ages 7 to 9. He uses a walker for mobility, bracing himself with one hand and swinging the bat with the other.
But the Scott City Recreation Commission said he couldn't join the team because of concerns he might get hurt or hurt other players. They also claimed it would force them to alter the rules and make the game less competitive, even though Matthew requested no changes.
His family finally sued the commission in federal district court in Wichita. It didn't take long for U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten to rule the league could not discriminate against him under the ADA. Marten issued a preliminary injunction ordering the commission to let Matthew play.