MATTHEWS, N.C. (CHARLOTTE SPORTS LIVE) — For 11-year-old Mason Olin, spring Sundays couldn’t arrive soon enough.

“He loves the game,” said his dad Garrett. “He loves the attention. He loves being out here.”

He also loves hitting the ball. That aspect of the game came easy to him when he started playing baseball five years ago. It was other things he struggled with.

On and off the field.

“On a daily basis, he’s a little bit slower with gaining access to certain things,” Garrett explained. “Definitely slower on a mental capacity. Mason has Down syndrome.”

But that hasn’t stopped him from getting off the bench. Then again, it hasn’t stopped any of his teammates who are living with special needs as well. Together, they unite on this field in Mathews each week to play in the MARA Bambino Buddy Ball Program.

“If you’re here [at the park] and you don’t know any better, [you’d think] you’re just seeing kids playing baseball,” said coach Rick Johnston.

But with this team, now in its third year after a relaunch, there’s much more going on. While baseball is the focus, it’s not the only thing the players are learning about.

“In the office like, we’d call it the soft skills,” said Johnston.  “Being a good teammate, encouraging your teammate, [and] waiting your turn. You see that kind of thing.”

You also see them having a ton of fun. But they’re not the only ones.

“You also have the families,” said Johnston. “They get to be sports parents, if only for an hour. Unfortunately they don’t have umps for them to chew on.”

That’s a good thing because there are only good vibes here. 

“Good!” Mason says when asked how he played. 

Another Sunday, another success.

For Mason, and his dad too.

“You’re a proud dad when your kid makes a cool play,” said Garrett.