Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Put me in coach!!!!

Our view of the Pittsburgh Pirate's Ballgame!
My son has taken a recent interest in baseball, mainly because Charlie Brown plays baseball and he has become a HUGE Charlie Brown fan as of late.  Coincidently, my grandfather bought my aspie a ball glove and ball for his Christmas that he has now been using so he can be like Charlie Brown.  So when I saw that the Pittsburgh Pirates were sponsoring an Autism Day with proceeds for the day's game benefiting Autism Speaks, I decided it was time to take our son to his first professional sports game. 

As we drove to the field, which is about an hour away, we could tell that our aspie was getting nervous for the day's big event.  He began to talk to himself quietly in the back seat.  Every once in a while I could hear what he was saying and of course he was scripting a quote from the Charlie Brown All-Stars cartoon, where they play baseball and lose.  As we got closer to the ball field, he started to quote louder and more often, which was a sign that he was very nervous; but he never cried, nor had a meltdown so we knew he was excited as much as he was nervous.  When we finally arrived and parked, we hopped out of the car to an excited crowd of people ready to root on the Pirates.  Seeing that our aspie was pretty afraid of the people, my husband hoisted him on top of his shoulders and away we went.  As we were approaching the stadium my hubbie kept asking our son if he was cold because he could feel him shivering, and it wasn't until the third questioning that he finally whispered that he was scared of all these people.  After some reassurance, he got down and was able to walk through security.  Luckily that day, children received a "rally towel" which became sort of a security blanket for my aspie, and his glove that he wore to catch fly balls became a mask.  So, with towel in hand and glove over his face we made our way to our seats. 

There is nothing like walking through a dark tunnel to see the emergence of the luscious green field, the thousands of seats of fans, the beautiful buildings of Pittsburgh in the background.  It's breathtaking.  My aspie was even taken back at the sight.  He had a look of amazement in his big beautiful brown eyes that quickly turned to fear when he realized the amount of people around him.  It wasn't until we were seated, he had put on his headphones to block out noise, and he was munching on nachos that he finally started to relax.  Out of no where though, he flew out of his seat,and said "when do I go down there and play...they need me!"  We at first laughed and tried to explain to him that we were only going to watch this game.  He insisted that he had to be on Charlie Brown's team and they were depending on him, or at least that's what I think he was saying because it was mainly in quotes from the cartoon. Once we convinced him that the players were Daddy's age and size and they would be too rough on a "big boy," he settled into the game and really started to enjoy it. 

We had such a wonderful, enjoyable time.  We had no major breakdowns or meltdowns.  We had no awkward moments or incidents, we just had a great time.  Pappy, hubs, aspie and I were pretty much smiling the entire time.....almost anyway.  It was me, that for a moment shed some tears.  For sitting next to me was a teenager, I would guess 18 or 19, who had autism.  When he was ushered to his seat earlier I had seen that he was wearing a puzzle piece pin with an I Have Autism inscription on it.  He sat near me leaving a seat in-between us in the beginning, but some new people had arrived forcing him to take the seat next to me.  I had things on the seat not expecting anyone to sit there and didn't realize he was moving into the seat until he had already sat down on the stuff.  His father helped me get the stuff and we all rearranged our belongings.  I could tell him sitting next to me was making him nervous because he kept fidgeting.  I also kept noticing him looking at my son, with his headphones on standing, sitting, standing, sitting and quoting Charlie Brown lines.  Me, sitting in between my four year old an this teenager made me feel like I was sitting between the present and the future. 

It was apparent that baseball was this kid's "thing."  He would repeat each players names when they were up to bat and would make calls before the umpire.  He would try to cheer when appropriate but it came out in a sort of yell.  He loved the beat of the music to cheer the team on, and he completed the statistics in his head before the scoreboard could do it.  I so badly wanted to talk to him to make him feel at ease to sit next to me, but didn't want to upset him.  Finally in between the fourth and fifth innings I made my move.  "It seems like you know a lot about baseball.  I bet you watch a lot of games."  He smiled really big and said, "Yes, I watch every game I can."  "Oh wow, that's great!" I said.  "Do you come to a lot of games?"  This answer took him awhile because he got so nervous to talk, even though he was smiling.  "No, I only come to the Autism Day games," he responded.  "Oh, well that's great!" I said, then I noticed him looking at my son again.  "My son has autism too" I said as I pointed to his pin on his jacket.  He smiled.  We sat there for a second and I looked over to see a tear come down his cheek.  "This is his first game and I'm glad I got to sit next to you so I can learn more about the game," I said.   And that was all.  That was all I could muster before I started crying the quiet tears that you wipe away.  After that, he stopped fidgeting and I went back to focusing on my aspie and answering all of his many questions about the game. 

As we left the game, with the Pirates scoring a win, a "rally" towel, a t-shirt that my aspie caught, and full bellies, I left with a sense that it wouldn't be our last time to the stadium since my aspie stated that the game "was awesome."  And I also left with the feeling that my son's future is unknown and I am sure there will be times when he gets nervous and anxious, but if he just tries and pushes through the fears of going to a game, of talking to a stranger sitting next to him or even just to walk through a crowd of people that there are "awesome" things that can result.  That the fear is only inside and the outside has a world of amazing things that I don't want him to miss out on. I couldn't be prouder of my son that day for facing his fears, and of a complete stranger who I know faced his fears by talking to me and who showed that he understood what my son was going through with his tear.  I think that boy is one of those strangers in life that you never forget and wonder about forever.  What a great day for a ballgame! 

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