Playing on a baseball team was something 26-year-old Alex Escobar only dreamed about as a child.
Escobar tried out for the sport in high school but was rejected because he wasn’t like other boys: He has a mild mental disability.
Nevertheless, Escobar looked like a pro Friday afternoon when he played for the Sidewinders in the Special Olympics Arizona 2003 Fall Championships at Scottsdale’s Eldorado Park.
Special Olympians throughout the state will finish competition today in aquatics, golf, softball and bocce.
Participating in sports turns fantasy into reality for the disabled, said Escobar’s mother and stepfather, Tucson residents Pat and Frank Doe.
"This is their professional league. This is their World Series," Frank Doe said. "It’s tied in the bottom of the ninth with two outs and they’re up to bat."
Unlike many high school, college and professional sports, Special Olympics aren’t cutthroat competitions.
"Nobody is a winner or a loser," Frank Doe said. "There’s no quarrel or envy on this baseball field . . . This gives these kids the opportunity to be equal, not secluded. Now they can watch a home run or a goal on TV and say, ‘Yeah, I did that.’ "
Sidewinders coach Bill Fields, said Escobar and his teammates are easier to coach than nondisabled players.
"They are very receptive to learning," said Fields.
The Does said Escobar would not be the same if it weren’t for Special Olympics and Challenger, a national sports league for the disabled in which Escobar has played for 11 years.
"Alex would not be as happy without sports as he is now," Frank Doe said. "He wouldn’t be as adventurous and life-loving."
Escobar, the captain of the Sidewinders, led the team to a 25-3 victory in its first game of the championship.
"We had fun," said Escobar. "But it doesn’t matter if we win or lose a game. It just feels good to play."