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Group takes to a field of dreams with the St. Paul Saints

Saint Paul Pioneer Press - 7/28/2022

It’s not every day that Brian Jensen can catch a ball in the outfield of CHS Field, hit a run to third and shake hands with Toby Gardenhire, manager of the St. Paul Saints.

But on Tuesday, he did it all.

In collaboration with the St. Paul Saints, a Minor League Baseball team and the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, the Beautiful Lives Project, was able to put on a Field of Dreams event where people of all ages and disabilities were able to experience an activity that they wouldn’t usually have the chance to — baseball with professionals.

The Beautiful Lives Project is a nonprofit that aims to give those with disabilities the opportunity to actively participate in activities that may not have been available to them.

Jensen, 43, of Little Canada, attended the event along with 52 others who signed up, free of cost. He was there with Merrick, Inc., the largest program in Ramsey County to provide day services to adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities. As a life long-fan of the St. Paul Saints, Jensen ran up to Gardenhire after he opened the event with a few words to shake his hand and get a picture.

“I shook hands with the manager,” he excitedly told his fellow Merrick, Inc. clients.

“I haven’t seen him this happy before,” Tess Bruhn, a Merrick, Inc. employee, said. “It’s kind of cool.”

For an hour, St. Paul Saints players and event attendees played catch, ran the bases, batted and got to know each other.

“To have them put this on is really incredible,” Jensen said.

This excitement is exactly the thing that Beautiful Lives Project co-founder Bryce Weiler aims to accomplish with these events.

In college, Weiler was able to sit on the bench of the University of Evansville men’s basketball team, and it changed his life. Weiler was born almost four months premature. While in the hospital, his retinas detached from his eyes, causing him to become blind. However, this did not stop him from being part of team and going on to become a sports commentator.

“I wanted to be able to give that back and to help people who have disabilities to be able to live their dreams to experience sports or experience other programs,” Weiler said.

And he wanted to do so in a way that is accessible to everyone.

“One of the best things about the Beautiful Lives Project events that we run is that they are open to people of every disability and of all ages,” Weiler said. “So often these types of events are just open to children are open to a certain disability. We think it’s important to have every disability interacting together.”

This is why at the event you could see both children and adults, both people in wheelchairs and people running after balls. The one connecting point? They’re all having fun.

Tanya Hagen, 28, of Minneapolis, was most excited to see the players. Decked out in a pink Saints hat, tie-dyed Saints shirts and black Saints shorts, Hagen is obviously a super-fan.

“She just wants to stand around and hang with the guys,” Jane Hagen, Tanya’s mother, said. “She’s just the greatest fan.”

Not only are events like these rewarding for the attendees, they are for the players as well.

“It’s an experience that you don’t get a chance to have very often where our players are out on the field playing and mingling with these folks that are going through so much,” Gardenhire said. “They’re always so happy and they’re having so much fun to be on the field, and it really puts everything in perspective for for everybody involved.”

For more information on the Beautiful Lives Project and their future events, find their website Articles

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