Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A League of His Own


Caden has been playing Miracle League Baseball since Spring.  It is a phenomenal program that pairs a child with a disability (physical or neurological) with a buddy who then helps them play baseball using whatever modifications the child needs in order to have a positive and successful experience. Everyone bats, gets as many opportunities as it takes to hit the ball, everyone runs the bases. No scores are kept and most importantly special needs kids get the chance to just be a kid.  We also get the amazing experience of playing on a 100% accessible field thanks to very generous donors in the area who want to help give kids that opportunity to just be kids.  

Caden absolutely loves it and he absolutely loves baseball.  He watches baseball just about every night on tv although he has no loyalty other than his team must be playing that night.  Hence we follow the Reds, the Cubs, the Indians, the Brewers, the Twins and well anyone who is playing and winning. Of course I am biased but honestly he is really athletic. He hits well, he throws well, he catches well.  Once we learn that the bat doesn’t have to be placed perfectly in the hula hoop that serves to teach dropping rather than throwing the bat, we’ll be well on our way to an all-star baseball player.

A few weeks ago Happy Bats started practicing in the grassy field beside the Miracle League field.  They are the 4-6 year old beginning baseball players. I’ve been watching their practices a little and honestly they aren’t doing anything skills-wise that Caden can’t already do so I started to go to Jennifer World. You know the place where I get ideas that usually either backfire or get me in trouble?

Whenever I venture too far into Jennifer World the universe likes to quickly point me back to reality.  In this case reality came in the form of 100+ degree days that meant most parents (you know the reasonable, logical, smart parents) kept their kids home.  We, on the other hand, caved to Caden’s wishes and grabbed the Gatorade, sunscreen, and Musher’s Wax for Elf’s paws and headed over to the field. Because most parents had elected to stay home, the Miracle League coaches and the Happy Bats coaches decided to combine teams.  Granted a little warning bell went off but because I was in Jennifer World I also thought this was the p-e-r-f-e-c-t chance to see how he could play with the other program’s kids. Maybe, just maybe…

Baseball was wonderful. In fact he hit the ball on the first pitch and caught every ball that came in his direction. Because it was so hot though the coaches thought that ending practice with a water ball fight would be fun. The directions were to throw the water ball at someone you didn’t know in a mingle-meet-and-greet fashion.  Nothing about this made sense to Caden and in record time he was down on the ground with the high pitch screaming/crying that probably called to dolphins in all corners of the world. Seriously if dolphins are found trying to swim upstream in the Mississippi River, you can bet that it was Caden’s crying to blame. Thankfully it was hot enough that few birds were out so there wasn’t a mass falling from the sky or anything but dang it was an epic melt down. 

My stay in Jennifer World came to a halt with a fiery crash upon re-entry to Ground Autism. 

Major kudos to Elf for immediately going to his feet and looking for a way in the field to get to his boy and much gratitude for the Miracle League staff for immediately removing Caden from the chaos and allowing him to play with a water ball outside of the field with just a few of the buddies.  I also think though that they learned a thing or two from the “experience” because tonight when they combined Happy Bats and Miracle League due to another 100+ day and followed it with a water ball fight, the kids just tried to hit their buddy or a coach with the ball and vice versa. It was much more controlled chaos and even though Dan, Elf, and I were ready to deploy, other than a little heat exhaustion, the experience was a positive and meltdown free one. 

You might be thinking that this story ends on a sad note but the thing is it just doesn’t.  Miracle League is awesome and we’ve recently found out that they are going to have Miracle League soccer in the fall. “Ironically” Caden has been talking about wanting to try soccer and here’s the perfect opportunity for him to just be a kid. Any tale that lets him live and love life is a happy tale to me.