Old North State League Unites for Season-Long Autism Awareness

by Cole Watson

This season, all 22 teams within the Old North State League will be uniting to raise awareness for autism. During a game of their choice this season, teams will sport a special hat containing the Autism Puzzle Piece, team logo, the logo of sponsor THINK Neurology, and the Old North State League logo. Teams will be provided with 48 hats that they can choose to auction off with proceeds going to a select charity.

This idea was brought to the league by Rick Bailey, an owner of the Pineville Porcupines, a team who plays within the Old North State League. Bailey has partnered with THINK Neurology to sponsor the season-long initiative. THINK Neurology is a pediatric specialty practice based in Houston, Texas providing diagnosis and treatment for over 30,000 people worldwide. The primary focus of this partnership is to raise awareness to help doctors and pediatricians in diagnosing and treating neurological conditions with certain therapies.

Dr. Shaun Varghese, a Houston based Pediatric Neurologist, started THINK Neurology in 2014, with the goal to provide accessible, comprehensive pediatric neurology and genetics services to the highest standards while retaining close personal connections with patients and their families.

Varghese commented, “We want every human to live their best life possible. Outside of healthcare, there is a large deficit in helping families with ‘real life.’ We want families to never feel alone or unheard. We must do two things: find each other in this chaotic world and actually support each other...build a powerful network of neurodiverse families...2. Build lifestyle services for our community to actually help each other live our best lives...Let’s lessen worrying about ‘the future’ for aspects that we can control.”

B&C Baseball, led by partners Rick Bailey and Chris de la Mora, acquired the reining 2023 Old North State League Champions, the Pineville Porcupines, late last year. Since acquiring the team, Bailey set a goal to use the team as a platform for autism awareness and neurological disorders. The Porcupines will hold three separate nights this season dedicated to autism awareness. Bailey has a son with autism, so he knows firsthand the importance of autism awareness.

He added, “Autism isn’t going away, so spreading awareness and understanding is absolutely vital. Autism isn’t a choice, but understanding and acceptance are choices we can make. Awareness, understanding and acceptance will pave the way for a more inclusive world for individuals with autism.”

Initiatives like this are a priority for the Old North State League. A key goal of the league is to inspire and support the communities in which teams play. Commissioner of the Old North State League, Eric Sibrizzi remains committed to this goal.

He commented, “Autism Awareness is something that hits very close to home for me.  I have a niece with autism, who brings us the most joy. While the world is shifting to a more kind and inclusive place for individuals like her and so many others, I'm honored that Rick Bailey and the Pineville Porcupines have made such a big effort in supporting Autism Awareness.  It brings a conscience and a cause to the sport, so it's not just about the game.” Sibrizzi continued, “Having worked in elementary education and coached for many years, our community events with organizations like The Miracle League, Special Olympics, and so many more continue to be the highlights of my time in this sport as well as our players and the athletes with special needs we work with.  Seeing those individuals light up as we include them and raise awareness is one of the most rewarding experiences. I look forward to seeing our league continue to inspire others through causes like this, so the world can experience the same acceptance and joy that I was raised with having a family member with Autism.”

THINK Neurology is a key partner in this initiative, with a mission to provide exceptional care to those with neurological disorders worldwide. Read more about THINK Neurology here: https://www.thinkkids.com/about.

The Old North State League is a college summer wood bat league in North Carolina that features 20 teams not including Burlington and Danville. In 2025, the league plans to expand to 24 teams and has been vetting markets and requests in anticipation of announcing the newest additions.

Image by Emma McLain