Autism And The Power Of Baseball

March 8, 2011; Dunedin, FL, USA; A general view during batting practice for the New York Yankees before a spring training game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

*It's Autism Awareness Month, and Maury Brown wrote about being a father of a child with Autism. He also asks for a donation if you can, as he is struggling to pay for the needs of his child. If you would like to donate, do so here.

[Note from Frank: Autism has become an epidemic, currently affecting 1 in 58 boys and 1 in 91 American children. As a Psychology/Special Education Major, this has become something I have taken an interest in, and a topic that should be taken very seriously. Back to Brandon.]

By now you know I like to think about baseball as something greater than just a sport. I see baseball as a catalyst of sorts for communication among those that may not usually communicate. Baseball means a lot to me, but three years ago I learned how much the sport could really mean to someone.

I was a volunteer in my High School's "Best Buddies" club, as I had been in previous years. Best Buddies is a club that attempts to form connections between the special education students and the regular education students in schools throughout the country.

In addition to my work in Best Buddies, I also was Co-President of an independent club in my High School, Best Buddies Fit. The goal of Best Buddies Fit was to teach the special education students the rules of sports and how to play the games. I expected it to be fun for me to teach them and fun for them to learn. It ended up being that, and much, much more.

I had never had any trouble connecting before in either of the clubs, but there was one autistic student, who shall remain nameless, that I simply could not get to want to play in the games we were playing. I asked him to play a game of baseball and after much deliberation he agreed, but asked that I join him at the plate.

As the Co-President of the club threw an underhand toss, we took control of the bat and swiftly swung it into the ball, connecting for a little line drive to third base. The boy looked up at me, smiled, and started running to first base. I'll always remember that smile, and I'll always remember what he did next.

The boy proceeded to round first, second, third, and home, and slide into home plate. Not only did he hit the ball harder than I ever had in my Little League career, he also ran the bases with a greater purpose than I ever did!

It was difficult to get him out of his shell still, but the one thing he always responded to was baseball or kickball. For some reason the idea of running around the bases pleased him greatly, and the connection was formed between us, and between him and the sport.

I remember that same day as we left the field as a group, we broke out in the song "Take Me Out to the Ballgame." While the words may have been mixed up a bit, everyone was smiling, laughing, singing, and having a great time.

That's the power of baseball.

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