James tried to play baseball in our neighborhood little league this past Spring. For exactly 1 practice.
I only saw the last 5 minutes of the practice and knew that continuing would be emotionally disastrous, so pulled him from the team. When I told the coach, he said he "would have tried to work with him, but maybe it was better that I pulled him". I was heartbroken, but was still determined to give James a chance to play baseball with his friends.
So when I heard that CVS Caremark All Kids Can was coming to Boston to create a "Dream Day at Fenway" for children with disabilities, I called my autism mama friends and we made our own team official. An inclusion team of autistic kids and their siblings that we called the Boston Spinners.
The opportunity came with some sad feelings. I'm lucky to have such a supportive autism village in my actual village, but I'm acutely aware that there shouldn't be that many children in my neighborhood with autism. My D'MAC (Determined (sometimes Drinking) Moms of Autism spectrum disorder Children) group is so big that not everyone on our "team" could participate, but ALL of our kids deserved this opportunity.
The easiest part was choosing our Coach. Boston City Councilor-at-Large John Connolly has done more for our families and our children than anyone else I know in this city. He has become our Champion and our friend. When he meets a mom with kids who have autism and feels isolated, he reaches out to us. He continually stands up for our children, all of whom are in the Boston Public Schools. As Chair of the Education Committee, John gives a voice to our families and children who don't feel like they have one.
The day was an absolute Dream Day. We had Fenway Park almost all to ourselves. We got to hang out in the Sox Dugout and go behind it into a hidden batting cage, as the incredibly charismatic and patient Sox batting coach Dave Magadan gave the kids some well deserved attention and batting help. Then we got to walk OUT ON THE FIELD and touch the Green Monster (something everyone who has ever been to Fenway has wanted to do!). Sadly the Sox are so far down in the standings that we were actually standing in front of our record while taking photos, but the kids each touched "Boston" on the wall to give us some luck.
The kids (and parents!) were already thrilled, but the day wasn't close to being over. They all got to hit pitches thrown by Coach Dave on the field! Watching the kids see the balls they hit go into the infield was amazing. Hearing them talk about how far they hit it was even better. D, for whom the 95 degree heat was an intense problem emotionally (totally get that!) ended up giving a play by play about his batting session: "No, that wasn't a home run...it was a triple"; "now that was a home run, see how far I hit it", "foul ball!" (I'm tempted to try to introduce him to Joe Castiglione, beloved Sox announcer and fellow Colgate graduate.)
Coach Dave told my James he was a "low ball hitter, and hit just like Big Papi" and James beamed. He had no idea what a low ball hitter is, but he sure as heck knows who Big Papi is, so he knew what a huge compliment that was.
During lunch in the dugout, Wally paid a visit to sign autographs and pose for pictures (Johnny Drama was hiding in the dugout, but James bravely went up and shook his hand as long as I promised I wouldn't take pictures, which I said "of course" as I instructed my friend to snap away ;) The first part of the day ended with a great tour around Fenway, checking out the Monster seats and asking questions D'MAC style. James asked "what was the first game that was won here?" and the guide looked towards him with a hint of surprise, but then didn't miss a beat and answered "It was the first game here ever. April 20 1912. They beat the New York Highlanders, who went crying home to their mommies and changed their name to the Yankees."
Cheers all around.
Cheers for the tour guide and for our hostess Amanda, and for the entire Red Sox organization. For MJ and CVS Caremark All Kids Can for setting up the day and giving these kids a once in a lifetime chance to be a team. At Fenway. For Wally for standing around in 95 degree heat as every kid (and all the moms ;) got to take a photo with him. And especially for Dave Magadan who treated each one of our kids like they were actually going to be playing for the Red Sox that night.
And for the Sox, for whom the magic of the Boston Spinners together touching "Boston" on the Green Monster helped spark a huge victory that night. The Boston Spinners were there to watch and cheer their beloved team. Maybe we should be invited back before every home game. Just to touch the Green Monster.
And maybe to get a few more batting lessons with Coach Dave. Because he is that awesome.
Click here to get a glimpse of our day ---> Boston Spinners at Fenway Park.
A million thanks to all who made it happen.
He runs to make his mind still, to organize himself and to get rid of the noise from this loud, confusing world. The more he's moved, the more he's introduced patterns and rhythm into his routine. Laps around the house are a daily ritual. He's made it more complex as he's developed, but the basics are the same. There is a pattern of movement -- specific foot patterns based on whatever song or chant he chooses to accompany the run, and he can not be stopped until he is ready to be.
This is James, and this is our story.
This is James, and this is our story.