More than just a competitive sports team, the Louisville Slugger Warriors amputee baseball team has created an incredible community unified by their shared love for the game and similar challenges. Competing against able-bodied teams in national baseball tournaments and special events, these men have the opportunity to show that disability doesn’t determine skill. Craig Handel recently wrote a story on the team in a special to The News-Press.
Before David Van Sleet had the idea for this team, he had three decades of experience working with the Department of Veterans Affairs on prosthetics. Once he retired in 2011 he started a nonprofit amputee softball team which evolved into what it is today. A national tryout was held at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches (West Palm Beach, FL) in January 2018, as David was trying to recruit skilled players and create team chemistry. The baseball team is made up of U.S. military veterans, active-duty personnel, Wounded Warriors, current and former amputee college baseball players, and those with congenital limb differences.
Their head coach is even a former MLB player, Curtis Pride, who has been involved with the team since 2018. After playing in a softball game against them, Pride was immediately inspired. “I was so impressed that I had to get involved somehow, someway,” Pride said. “These guys don’t let anybody stop them from doing what they want to do.” Together they even reached a championship in a Men’s Senior Baseball League Tournament in Las Vegas.
Although each player has a different story, there is a commonality that bonds them together. The mutual respect and empathy is present as they reflect on what their teammates have experienced and overcome to get to this point.
“It’s been an incredible experience coaching these guys,” Pride added. “I’ve learned a lot from them and they’re a great inspiration.”