HOBART | You can't teach these things.

"I like to kick the ball," Hobart Girls Softball League player Lindsey Neyhart said.

Kick the ball? Well, when a slow roller moves outside the baseline and there's no chance to throw out any advancing runners, you should kick the ball before it rolls back into fair territory. It's a heads-up play even seasoned major leaguers lack the instinct to perform.

Again, you can't teach these things.

"I (also) like to throw the ball," said Lindsey, who has a cannon for an arm as a photographer found that out after he thought it was safe to take pictures of her warming up from only 75 feet away.

More offensive-minded teammate Hailie Locklear likes to hit the ball ... "and give high-fives to my teammates," she said.

Lindsey, Hailie, Mecca Owensby, Summer Luttrell, Courtney Burris and Kathryn Tokarz are members of the McDonald's 8-and-under division team within the league. You can refer to them as a "special" squad, but HGS president Bill SeDoris says that "The Big Mac Attack" is merely part of the league like any other 8-and-under team.

"They're not in any 'special needs' division, and we accept them like we do for anyone else," SeDoris said shortly before the team played its final regular-season game June 29 at the league's complex.

This is McDonald's first season as a team, but several players -- like Lindsey and Hailie -- have been in the league for several years.

Three seasons ago, Joan Martin Elementary special education teacher Jackie Keefe -- who has been active in the Hobart Girls Softball since she was a 5-year-old player -- approached HGS's board about allowing several of her students to play in the league.

"We started them off in the 6U division," Keefe said, "then the following year, we picked up a few more. This year, we formed a team and moved up to the 8U division, though some of our girls are a little older.

"It's really hard to find activities for kids like these. We're just happy the league and the other players within the league have welcomed us with open arms."

SeDoris and volunteer umpire Joshua Kaiser helped customize a playing format for games involving "The Big Mac Attack." Hobart junior Blake Neyhart, who is Lindsay's older brother, pitches to the team when it's batting and catches for the opposing team (if needed) when McDonald's takes the field.

"We usually allow the other team's pitcher to pitch to her own team so they can face live pitching," SeDoris said.

At the plate and along the basepaths, "The Big Mac Attack" is enthusiastically aggressive. Playing the field, however, the girls tend to drift into Starlin Castro mode and need assistance from Keefe, fellow McDonald's coaches Joe Basil and Lindsay Burbee, and several other players from the league.

"A lot of people don't know what a challenge it is for families with special needs children," Blake Neyhart said. "It takes a lot of patience.

"But whenever you can help put a smile on these kids' faces, it's an awesome experience and makes it all worthwhile."

SeDoris and Keefe hope to attract even more special needs children for next year to where they can form multiple teams that can play each other.

"Before, we were worried that we could never find anything where she could be like other kids," said Tawnya Locklear of her daughter Hailie. "This is her second year playing here, and she loves it ... always can't wait to play again."


Sports Copy Editor

Jim is a copy editor for The Times who works out of Valparaiso. A South Central High School (1984) and Ball State ('89) grad, he’s covered preps most of his career. He received the Indiana High School Wrestling Coaches Association’s Media Award in 1997.