ASHFORD, Ala. (WDHN) — Chase Carnley, an assistant softball coach, and wheelchair-bound pitcher for the Ashford 8u Coke team part of Dixie Softball, is hoping for a home run next week when he meets with ADA (American Disabilities Act) officials about getting back on the mound to pitch after he said he was discriminated against by the league and city forced off.
“You know I miss being out there and I don’t think just because I’m wheelchair bound that I am not limited to what the next person who is able is I am just as able,” He said.
Carnley has been in a wheelchair for six years now after he said he was drinking and driving and got into a car accident.
“I was driving home late and night and I shouldn’t have been on the road and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt and it cost me,” He said.
But, it didn’t cost his passion for coaching softball and being the pitcher to his 11 girls.
Carnley has pitched five games during his first season but it wasn’t until this week when he watched from the dugout as one complaint was filed to the president of the softball league.
“I don’t know if it’s a complaint that has built up or if we beat the other Ashford 8u team twice now, but either way it’s unfortunate,” He said.
Carnley said in the rule book, there is no rule about wheelchairs being on the field, yet the softball league is claiming it’s a safety hazard to the children.
“There has been no instance has anything happened to where a child almost hit me or I’ve come into play with the ball for instance the ball has hit off my chair of course,” He said.
City officials have issued an updated statement about the actions of the league president.
“The City of Ashford is proud of its recreation facilities and the children and families it serves. Our program has grown exponentially over the last few years. Our community is tight-knit and extremely supportive of the park and all of the families involved. The Recreation Director, Jeff Speed, has done an outstanding job with park improvements, maintenance, and recruitment for each of our different sports. A concern for player safety was brought to Mr. Speed that involved a wheelchair being present within the field of 8u softball games. Ashford Rec. Department is a franchisee of Dixie Girls Softball, Inc. Dixie Girls promulgates rules and regulations for its member organizations. The concern about the wheelchair could not be clearly addressed within the published rules of Dixie Girls, Inc. For that reason, it became necessary for Mr. Speed to seek an advisory ruling from Dixie Softball. Dixie Softball returned the decision and instructed The City of Ashford that for player safety they would not allow a wheelchair on the playing field. Consequently, the City understands the ruling and has been placed in the undesired position of limiting the Wheelchair-bound individual from the field of play. This situation is extremely unfortunate and unpopular. However, any other decision could risk our franchise with Dixie Softball or create unnecessary liability for the City.”
Carnley has received a lot of support to get him back on the field as a petition is going around with over 1,000 signatures.
“In the near future, I hope and pray that no one runs into this problem,” He said. “If someone is in a wheelchair and they want to coach, play or pitch, they should be able to do so it’s their right,” He added.
He hopes to be back on the field as soon as April 27th.