At first glance of the members of the Apple Sox team in North Bothell (Wash.) Little League (NBLL), the everyday person may notice that one member of the team stands out from the rest, but if you ask anyone involved with the league, each would likely respond that it is just another normal Little League® team. NBLL does have someone who is truly remarkable, however, in 11-year-old Ayden Harris, who Little League International has officially named as the 2017 Little League Good Sport of the Year.
“It is an honor to name Ayden as the 2017 Good Sport of the Year,” said Stephen D. Keener, Little League President and CEO. “His dedication and love for the game of baseball, combined with his motivation to educate and inspire those around him, is a true representation of what Little League stands for and the values that this organization is founded upon.”
Born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, Ayden may not be as tall as his other teammates, but he is no different than any other member of his Apple Sox teammates, especially when it comes to his love for the game of baseball.
“I love playing baseball and getting to meet different people,” said Ayden. “I also want more people to learn about dwarfism.”
That is exactly what this 11-year-old does throughout the North Bothell community as he and his custodial grandparents, Mark and Deana, help to educate his friends, teammates, and community on what dwarfism is and inspire those around him to know that no matter what someone may look or act like, they are no different than the young boy or girl next to them.
“Ayden represents exactly what the spirit of Little League is all about,” said Scott Brohaugh, North Bothell Little League President. “From my view as the League President, Ayden represents all those who are facing some sort of road block, challenge, or hurdle that they have to overcome. At the end of the day, there is a little bit of Ayden in all of us.”
Ayden got his start in the NBLL program three years ago when a member of the local Board of Directors saw him playing during recess and encouraged Ayden’s grandmother to get him involved in Little League. From there, Deana worked with Mr. Brohaugh and the NBLL Board members to get Ayden signed up. Deana put together letters explaining who Ayden was and more about his situation that Mr. Brohaugh shared with the managers, coaches, league officials, and parents. With the full support and approval of Mr. Brohaugh and the Board, Ayden was entered into the league and it was a decision that nobody would ever regret.
“I’ve seen Ayden around the league for the last few years, and I have always admired his smile and attitude,” said Ben Kim, Ayden’s current Little League coach. “Just because you look different, doesn’t mean you are a different person. Ayden has been able to open minds to what people are capable of and expand people’s horizons. He says it best when he says that if people want to do something, don’t let your size or what people think influence you. If you want to play, then play.”
While Ayden’s physical appearance may be different than those around him, his motivation and love for the game has never been a question. Ayden has demonstrated the ability to overcome life’s challenges head on which has qualified him to be named the Good Sport of the Year.
“I could hardly breathe,” said Ms. Harris, Ayden’s grandmother, when she found out he would be receiving this honor. “I know what a big deal this is and one of the great things about this award is the opportunity for Ayden to continue to share education and inspiration about people with any type of difference. It’s truly amazing.”
When Ayden first heard he would be receiving the 2017 Little League Good Sport of the Year Award, he was left speechless, letting out a smile from ear-to-ear before sharing just one word, “amazing.”
Since 1989, the Good Sport of the Year Award has recognized a Little Leaguer® who has demonstrated superior qualities of sportsmanship, leadership, a commitment to teamwork, and a desire to excel. Ayden Harris will be presented with this year’s Good Sport of the Year Award during the 2017 Little League Baseball® World Series in South Williamsport, Pa., this August.