How does a centenarian hit a baseball? While this sounds like the first line of a joke, it’s what Second Wind Dreams and Quail Summit sought to achieve this summer.
The Canandaigua retirement home listens to residents’ wishes and makes them happen through Second Wind Dreams, an international nonprofit that enhances the quality of life for those living in elder care communities and works to change the perception of aging.
This summer, resident Joe Bader shared his wish to hit a real baseball one more time. Employees shared the wish with the Second Wind Dreams Committee, which dug deeper to learn Bader turns 102 this year, is a World War II veteran and loves baseball.
Bader served in the U.S. Army for 44 months in Okinawa, Japan, and Alaska. He went to Rochester Red Wings games in his youth with his father and as an adult with his family. Bader played baseball in high school and earned his nickname, Scoops, for his shortstop skills. He played third base for the Army in Okinawa and near Denali National Park in Alaska.
Bader has six children, 14 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren. The committee agreed that baseball, family and military service should be factored into his wish.
Second Wind Dreams and Quail Summit reached out to the Red Wings to plan a special day for Bader. He Bader participated in a private batting practice session with coach Stu Cliburn, and received Red Wings memorabilia and a military tribute for his service. Quail Summit residents and employees joined his friends and family in a reserved section to cheer him on.
“I hit about 25 baseballs at batting practice and some of them were good ones,” Bader said. "I didn't think I would ever do that again. They treated me like a king. I got to hit balls and be honored in front of about 7,000 fans. The baseball announcer read the details of my military service history to honor me and did a proper military salute. It was very special. I would have been happy with a hot dog. They gave me much more.”
To make the day more memorable, 41 members of his family attended batting practice with T-shirts that read “Scoop’s Team.”
“It was exciting to be part of planning something so special — it's not every day that a 101-year-old gets to relive hitting a professionally pitched baseball,” said Wendy Ubbink, director of life enrichment at Quail Summit. “Joe is an amazing person. It was awesome watching Joe’s expressions as he prepared to hit the ball.
“Tim Doohan, of the Rochester Red Wings, was so good to work with on this dream. After all that they did for us to make this special dream come true for Joe, they even sent a thank-you letter to us for bringing Joe to them. They were amazing people and so well prepared with every little detail.”
Ubbink has volunteered with Second Wind Dreams for three years. Those interested in joining the committee or contributing to its work can email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org for information.