Reedley basketball player with Down syndrome scores first basket
Emotion and inspiration are important parts of sports - and both were on display Thursday night at a Reedley high school boys basketball game. It was a memorable night, especially for one special student athlete.
"The heart and soul of Reedley," said Pirates football coach Brandon Nagle. "That would explain Jack right there."
It's senior night at Reedley high school, and the last player introduced - is the first to score for the Pirates. It's also Jack Welsh's first career basket, and the student section rushes to the court to celebrate with him.
"You want to cry," said Jack's dad, John Welsh. "You know, we didn't know anything about it, so, it really took us by surprise."
The reaction from Jack's classmates is driven by love. Jack's so adored, they voted him Homecoming King this past fall.
"He deserves to be Homecoming King," said Jack's friend and classmate, Kyana Espinoza. "You want someone who represents your student body and someone who exemplifies everything your school stands for, and that's Jack."
For three years, Jack's been a devoted member of the Reedley football, basketball and baseball teams. Thursday marked the first time he got to play.
"To see the joy in his face and to experience what all these boys have excperienced for four years - he's like any other boy," said Jack's dad. "He wants to participate."
Basketball coach Travis Ferrell said, "He comes to all of our practices. He brings energy that sometimes our players don't bring, and we feed off of him. So to me, it was the least we could do to have this type of celebration on senior night."
Pirates baseball coach Russ Sauceda added, "No matter what your ability levels are, you can still contribute and be a part of a team, be a part of a club, be part of a school. He's just a really true Pirate at heart."
The last player introduced on senior night - that's who you remember most. When it comes to Jack Welsh - w hen it comes to Down syndrome - remember this, explained Jack's dad. "The National Down Syndrome Congress stated it best when they said, 'we're more alike than different.' All he has is an extra chromosome. He likes doing every single thing every young man and young boy likes to do. And that's what I would like people to know."
The final word, from Jack himself: "Go Pirates!"