I’d rather watch my sports heroes from afar and live among life’s everyday heroes. Major League Baseball celebrated the latter group on Tuesday night as part of the All-Stars Among Us promotion.
Catonsville’s Frank Kolarek represented the Orioles in St. Louis as one of 30 nationwide All-Stars Among Us. He appeared on the Busch Stadium field and briefly on camera in recognition of his work as the founder of League of Dreams, which gives Baltimore-area special needs children and adults the opportunity to play baseball and softball. Former O’s shortstop Mike Bordick has been involved with the program and hopes to start a league in Maine.
Kolarek will represent the Baltimore Orioles, as he was voted by fans in recognition of his work as founder and president of League of Dreams, a baseball and softball organization that gives children and adults with special needs the chance to play the games in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.
“It’s big,” Kolarek said of the honor. “I wish we could take a busload of our kids. I’d sit out if they could go.”
Kolarek was one of seven children growing up in his family’s southwest Baltimore home. He attended St. Benedict School and served as an altar boy.
As a Mount St. Joseph upperclassman, he became a catcher and made an impression at Catonsville Community College. He transferred to the University of Maryland and shined for the Terps. Never taken in the major league draft, he signed a contract with the Athletics.
After his professional career was done, Kolarek returned to be an assistant coach for Maryland and quickly found out that he loved instructing the game.
Having taken an interest in those with special needs during his playing days, Kolarek also worked for Special Olympics’ international and Maryland branches.
“There’s always someone picked last and just trying to hang out,” Kolarek said. “Now our kids are making opportunities for other kids.”
The League of Dreams concept is taking hold. A park in Fresno, California is being built entirely with special needs accessibility and includes a baseball diamond. Kolarek said his organization will be the baseball and softball provider.
League of Dreams has also received support from many of Kolarek’s friends. Former Oriole shortstop Mike Bordick has been active in the program and is interested in starting a League of Dreams in Maine.
Here’s some additional information about All-Stars Among Us from MLB.com:
These are the people who were chosen by MLB and People magazine for their community service. Nearly 750,000 votes were cast by fans across the nation in the All-Stars Among Us campaign to select the 30 winners — one per Major League team — out of the pool of 90 finalists who are serving as leaders within their communities.
And speaking of living among the everyday heroes, Kolarek happens to be one of my father’s neighbors. Thanks for the tip, dad.