Whenever Glastonbury's baseball team needs a good pump-up speech, they turn to team manager Ari Poliner.
"He gives us a speech every game," said Glastonbury senior shortstop Sam Benedict.
"He brings enthusiasm every single day," added Glastonbury head coach Dennis Accomando.
"Two weeks before the start of the season, he was carrying around his cleats in his backpack," said Glastonbury senior catcher Ben Curcio.
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Ari has down syndrome and has been part of the Guardians' team for the past few years. He sees a lot of potential in this particular group.
"I'm hoping we can go to the big games," said Poliner.
His teammates wanted to make Ari's senior year special. On Wednesday, coach Accomando gave Ari the ball to make his pitching debut against New Britain.
"This is huge," said Poliner. "It means how important this team is to me and how much this team means to me."
Poliner fulfilled a longtime goal of taking the field with his teammates.
"It was pretty special," said Benedict.
"He's always wanted to be on the field and we always wanted to give him that opportunity, so I'm happy we were able to do that," said Curcio.
"It's a two-way street," said Accomando. "He gives back to me and the guys as much as I hope we can give to him."
"I'm always here enjoying myself," said Poliner.
As much as he loves baseball, it isn't Ari's only passion.
"I'm following my dream of being a puppeteer," said Poliner. "One of my favorites is Jim Henson, hopefully I can keep going with this."
It's that drive and determination that has left a lasting impression on his teammates.
"When you see someone putting their heart on their sleeve and giving everything they've got on the field, especially when it's someone like Ari, it makes you want to fight for him," said Curcio. "It makes you want to fight for everybody like him."