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Casey Christie / The Californian

The plaque on the dugout thanks sponsors for the League of Dreams support.

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Casey Christie / The Californian

During Wednesday's League of Dreams outing, Chicago White Sox third baseman Brent Morel pushes Kelsey Heard around the bases at Fruitvale Norris Park while Morel is in town during a short rehabilitation program before heading back to Chicago to resume his baseball season.

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Casey Christie / The Californian Elijah Karch is hoping to get a couple of autographs, Wednesday, at Fruitvale Norris Park from Chicago White Sox third baseman Brent Morel during The League of Dreams outing with Morel.

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The weather was perfect for the Fourth of July, but especially for a rare chance to meet a special guest at Fruitvale-Norris Park.

With the late morning sun peaking through the trees, kids and parents gathered at Abilities Field, greeted by a major league ballplayer.

As each showed up to the field specially designed for children with disabilities, Bakersfield native Brent Morel made them feel welcome.

Morel was on hand for an Independence Day celebration for the League of Dreams, which provides kids with disabilities the opportunity to participate in sports.

"I've always had something in my heart about working with children with disabilities," said Morel, who made the league his official charity. "Being fortunate enough to be able to play Major League Baseball and having opportunities, I just like giving back and seeing these kids getting to do what I did growing up."

He played on diamonds not far from Abilities Field, honing his skills in Little League and then at Centennial High.

It's not often Morel, a third baseman with the Chicago White Sox, can be in town during the season.

However, he is currently in town working out with Tim Terrio, who owns Terrio Physical Therapy and Fitness, rehabbing a back strain suffered in May.

It was Terrio who decided that the area needed a league where these kids could feel what it's like to be on a field and hear the roar of the crowd.

"One day I saw a commercial for a league like this," Terrio said. "I asked the head of our pediatrics center why there wasn't a league like that in Bakersfield. He said, 'No one started one.' So I said, 'Well, let's start one.'"

The league means a lot to the participants and their families, especially being championed, not only by an elite athlete, but a local hero.

"This gives her an opportunity to play sports with other kids who have similar abilities," Charlie Heard said while his daughter, Kelsey, rounded the bases in a wheelchair with Morel. "They can have those experiences of going out and hearing the crowd cheer for them and play with other kids like their siblings do."

Kelsey's older brother C.J., who also plays baseball, helps out as her "Angel."

"Angels help the players in the field or running the bases," Heard said.

And the league has grown since 2007. In addition to baseball, it offers a six-week basketball season in September and, thanks to Morel's involvement and an annual gala in January, baseball registration was free this season.

"More than 165 kids are playing this season," Terrio said, adding that the number is up from around 90 in previous years.

If enough money can be raised, Terrio has another special treat for the league planned later this year: He wants to take a group of kids to watch the White Sox take on the Angels when the club comes to Anaheim in September.

"We have to get Brent back on the field," Terrio said with a smile. "We'll get the kids down to a game and hopefully they can meet some other big leaguers."