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USA Baseball works with special needs players

MLB.com

MIAMI -- The left-center-field netting proved to be no match for Kevin Delpino as he jumped into it to record the final out of Friday's pickup game at Play Ball Park in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park as part of All-Star Game festivities.

Delpino, 23, plays for the City of Miami Magic, which eyes redemption at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle after earning a silver medal in '14. The softball team got a head start with the help of USA Baseball.

MIAMI -- The left-center-field netting proved to be no match for Kevin Delpino as he jumped into it to record the final out of Friday's pickup game at Play Ball Park in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park as part of All-Star Game festivities.

Delpino, 23, plays for the City of Miami Magic, which eyes redemption at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle after earning a silver medal in '14. The softball team got a head start with the help of USA Baseball.

"It's nice playing other people and to try to do your best," said Delpino, who is the youngest member of the team and plays left field. "In 2018, we're going to Seattle. I'm very excited."

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The Magic's 15 players range in age from 23-36, and most have competed together since 2010 at the local, state and national levels. The City of Miami Parks and Recreation Department's "Get Fit" program involves adults with disabilities.

For Michael Lopez, 28, his relationships with his teammates highlight the experience.

"We've been playing almost seven years together," said Lopez, who is the third baseman. "We have a lot of good friends."

Evelys Cruz, the disabilities recreation leader for the City of Miami, has been involved for 20 years thanks in large part to the school system. The Magic, whose players are multi-sport athletes, often gets invited to tournaments.

Tweet from @CDeNicola13: City of Miami Magic playing a game with USA Baseball @PlayBall Park. Nice catch! pic.twitter.com/sqR1U4XTen

Practice occurs twice a week for three hours at Grapeland Park in Miami. It was evident to USA Baseball coach Tanner Vesely, who pitched and gave up several long homers in Friday's game.

"This is awesome. The energy that they're bringing, the excitement that they're bringing, it makes it a lot of fun," Vesely said. "I'm seeing some awesome swings. They're hitting the ball farther than some of the people I coach."

Play Ball Park, which began its second year after a successful run in San Diego in 2016, is a free interactive All-Star Week attraction created by Major League Baseball to provide opportunities for youth from ages 4-17 to play baseball and softball in a fun, welcoming setting. Play Ball Park measures about one acre in size and includes a youth-sized turf diamond featuring daily scheduled programming and open-play as well as batting tunnels, pitching inflatables, MLB sponsor activation zones and a new "Stickball Alley." Each young person who participates in Play Ball Park activities will receive a plastic or foam Play Ball bat and ball set made by Franklin and a Play Ball-branded T-shirt. Programming partners for 2017 Play Ball Park include USA Baseball, USA Softball, The Positive Coaching Alliance, the Marlins, Boys & Girls Club of America and Play Ball supporters such as Chevrolet, Scotts, Nathan's Famous and New Era.

Play Ball Park, which is accessible to children and parents through Tuesday, has free admission, after signing a required participation waiver.

"This is pretty cool," Cruz said. "Because they were selected to go to National Games again, the Marlins have reached out to us a lot. They've invited them over for clinics and train with some of the players and coaches, so they get one-to-one clinics with them. That's pretty cool."

On Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET, tune in to the 2017 All-Star Game presented by Mastercard live on FOX, and during the game visit MLB.com to submit your choice for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet via the 2017 MLB All-Star Game MVP Vote. The 88th All-Star Game, in Miami, will be televised nationally by FOX, in Canada by Rogers Sportsnet and RDS, and worldwide by partners in more than 160 countries via MLB International's independent feed. ESPN Radio and ESPN Radio Deportes will provide national radio coverage of the All-Star Game. MLB.com, MLB Network and SiriusXM will also provide comprehensive All-Star Week coverage. For more information, please visit allstargame.com.

Christina De Nicola is a producer for MLB.com based in Miami.

Miami Marlins