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LaGrange baseball team hosts dance party

By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY

Daily News

It’s become a holiday-time tradition for LaGrange High’s baseball program.

Under previous head coach David Smart, LaGrange’s players and coaches hosted a dance party for special-needs students at the school.

When Donnie Branch replaced Smart as head coach, he was fully on board with the idea of continuing the party.

“When we met with our booster-club officers, we were going over the budget, and they said we’ve got this budgeted,” Branch said. “They said do you want to do it, and I said absolutely.”

So plans were made, and this year’s party was held on Thursday morning at the Mike Daniel Recreation Center.

LaGrange’s baseball players and the special-needs students danced, smiled, laughed, ate pizza, and just enjoyed themselves for two hours while a DJ played the hits.

“It’s pretty cool, because you remember them from last year,” said Trent Bailey, a senior catcher for the Grangers. “We have just as much fun as they do.”

Another one of LaGrange’s seniors, Cole Sanders, said “it’s real special for us to see them interact with everybody, and get out. They’re normally in the class room all day, so it’s fun for them.”

Branch, who got into the spirit by wearing a red Santa hat, enjoyed seeing the way his players interacted with the other students.

“I think our kids get as much or more out of it as the other kids, because they learn how tough it is for some of these other kids,” Branch said. “And they also learn that those kids are great kids, and they love having fun.”

Branch added that “it’s been a tradition for years at LaGrange High where our athletes at LaGrange High have really embraced that department anyway.”

As important as baseball is to Branch, who led LaGrange to a state championship in 2004, he also wants to see his players become well-rounded men.

“When they get done playing, I hope they’ve learned a whole lot of things,” Branch said. “I hope they’re better baseball players, but we hope they’re a lot better person, and citizen. There are things a lot more important than who bats third. In the big scheme of things, 10 years from now, the things you learn along the way are a lot more important than who knocked in the winning run.”