In honor of #FathersDay I hope you'll indulge a little cross-post of something…
In honor of #FathersDay I hope you'll indulge a little cross-post of something I shared on FB today. So, some of you may know that my son Quinn is on the autism spectrum, which is a pretty wide spectrum, but suffice it to say he has a lot of tremendous strengths with some real challenges thrown in to make life interesting. One of the more challenging areas is fine and gross motor control (running, throwing, catching, etc.) so it was with some surprise (ok, a lot of surprise) when he told me he wanted to play little league baseball back in April. At first, I actually tried to talk him out of it as he had never even picked up a bat before, let alone play a full game. However he was determined, and so when he is motivated to do something that is our cue to pull out all the stops to give him the chance to do it.
The season is winding down now (playoffs next weekend) and he's only missed one game due to being sick (lyme disease from a tick bite, but better now). He's shown up, practiced, played, and made some great friends. He's also learned a lot about how to play baseball, which to be honest is not something I ever imagined. Those of you who know me well, know that I am not a sports nut, so I don't have a big drive for Quinn to play sports as there are so many great things for kids to get involved in these days, but I do want him to have as normal a childhood as possible, and what could be more normal than playing little league baseball? Though I did not and turned out OK (I think).
Well, he had a game yesterday, and as he was warming up for his first at-bat, one of his teammates (Antonio, who is a sweetheart of a kid) says to him, "Do you remember when I was working with you at batting practice" and Quinn replied, "Yes, nice and level swings" and Antonio just kept on with encouragement and reminders about all that they had practiced until it was time for him to step up to the plate. Now his team was down 5-0 at this point, there were no outs and there was one boy (Gus) on second. Up until this point in the season Quinn has been walked once (hit with a pitch), had one hit (tagged out at first), and has struck out every other time. It is safe to say he's not the strongest player on the team, but the boys are all very supportive. One of the things he's been working on is not swinging at every pitch, but also swinging at the right pitches, which is where all of his challenges come together.
So, he's up at the plate and I'm holding my breath and watching him trying to remember all those things they've been working on that some kids just take for granted (stand in the right spot, keep the bat up, elbows up, eye on the ball, knees bent, wait for the pitch that is coming over the plate, swing at just the right moment to make contact, but don't swing if the ball isn't over the plate, and so on). He looks awkward, but determined. The boys are all cheering him on (along with all the parents and coaches). He's doing a great job waiting for good pitches and after the moments tick by he has only one strike and 3 balls. I'm praying for one more (obvious) ball to get him walked just so he can get on base and have a chance to run. Gus, who was on second has since stolen to third. Instead, Quinn swings and makes contact! He runs with all his heart to first, but gets tagged out. Meanwhile, thanks to his hit, Gus makes it home and they get their first run of the game. The boys go wild, the parents go wilder, everyone is cheering and high-fiving Quinn for bringing the runner home! Quinn has a smile a mile wide and doesn't really know why everyone is cheering when he got out, but he is rolling with it. Someone told him he got an RBI. It was a truly peak moment for him, and for my wife and I to see him so happy and everyone so genuinely happy for him and with him.
After the excitement died down he came up to me and quietly said, "Dad, what's a RIB?" OK, so he still has a lot to learn about baseball, but I'm so glad he didn't let me talk him out of playing, and I'm so grateful to all the boys and coaches on his team for giving him the chance to just be one of the boys. You couldn't ask for a better father's day gift than that. Oh, and they went on to win 8-7. Happy Father's Day everyone!
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