One Dream Catcher slid triumphantly into home plate. Another pointed his bat toward center field, calling his shot in the style of Babe Ruth. Then there was 11-year-old Tayton Hjelmstad, who pumped his fist as he rounded first base and shouted, "Whoo! Josh Willingham!"
"He can hit with power," Tayton said of Willingham, the Minnesota Twins' left fielder and Tayton's favorite player.
The Minot Metros joined the Dream Catchers on Thursday at South Hill Complex for the first of their weekly baseball games. The Dream Catchers - an organization for children with physical and mental disabilities - is in its 10th year and has a record 81 participants this year, ranging from ages 4-22.
Ten-year-old Dream Catcher Lane Haman, left, and the Minot Metros’ Jayden Wahlundy run toward home plate Thursday at South Hill Complex.
"What's really fun about this is there's just smiles everywhere," said Travis Smith, 11th-year coach of the Metros. "Every guy smiles, you just see the personality. All our players are relaxed, having fun. I think it kind of slows things down for them, puts it in perspective that it's just a game and anybody can enjoy it."
Karen Hjelmstad said her son Tayton - who has cerebral palsy - had surgery in January to straighten each of his legs. The procedure involved cutting each of his shin bones and putting a plate in their place.
Yet with the aid of leg braces, Tayton made it around the basepaths on foot after his first at-bat - even breaking out into a wobbly run. After Tayton smacked a grounder in his second at-bat he traveled around the bases in a wheelchair, celebrating and thumping his chest.
But the Dream Catchers weren't the only ones enjoying themselves.
The Metros doled out high fives and compliments to the players they were partnered with. Minot High School rising sophomore Jayden Wahlundy was particularly enthusiastic, bantering with 10-year-old Lane Haman and dodging the handfuls of grass and dirt that Lane chucked at him.
"He just loved to play in the sand and draw little circles and call them 'his base,' " Wahlundy said. "It was pretty cool."
Smith said the annual tradition of partnering with the Dream Catchers is a valuable experience for his players.
"Our guys get to enjoy baseball every day and this is just a time for us to play with some other youth in the community and enjoy the same game," Smith said.
A game that produces no shortage of smiles.