Effingham Navigators return to field, normalcy

Special needs team returns to field for first time since COVID-19 pandemic

Effingham Navigators return to field, normalcy
The Effingham County Navigator League returned to the field for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak Thursday night. (Source: WTOC)

SPRINGFIELD, Ga. (WTOC) - Every time thirteen year old Xander Diefenbough heads to Josh Reddick Field to play, he has some simple goals in mind…

“See people. Hang out. Play baseball. Have fun,” he says.

But for a while, that hasn’t been easy.

Xander’s Effingham County Navigators league has been like every thing else: put on hold a few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Xander Diefenbough steps up to the plate after a COVID-19 layoff.
Xander Diefenbough steps up to the plate after a COVID-19 layoff. (Source: WTOC)

As Xander describes it: “Crazy”

But baseball was back Thursday night for the first official game of the season, with some extra safety precautions in place. For this special group of people, that means more than just the sound of the bat on the ball and the cheers as you cross home plate.

A Navigator League player celebrates as he crosses home plate.
A Navigator League player celebrates as he crosses home plate. (Source: WTOC)

“When they come out here, it’s calming," says Navigator Team vice president Angela Jackson. "The kids love it.”

“Our kids are very routine oriented. They like that routine," says team president Pauline Shaw. "This is getting them back to life.”

Tonight’s game was rained out after about thirty minutes, but the time on the field wasn’t the important thing. Tonight was about getting somewhat back to normal with a game and a group they love.

“It lets them know it’s still here. That our friends are still going to be here," Shaw says. "The field is going to be here. And we can still play baseball.”

Xander says he’s looked forward to the return of baseball all spring. But there’s more than baseball for him on this field.

“These people always care about people," he explains. "There’s care and happiness here.”

For the Navigators, getting back to that is the best normal of all.

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