Monday, June 8, 2015

Baseball Season: It's a Wrap

Ethan's baseball season wrapped up yesterday, and it went better than expected.

Things were a little sketchy, to start. The first thing I heard when we arrived at Ethan's first practice was the coach barking that if anyone threw the bat after hitting, they were going to have to drop and give him push-ups.

I wasn't even sure Ethan knew what a push-up was.

Then the coach yelled they were going to have to run laps around the field if the kids didn't "hussle."

I'm all for high standards, but these boys are only six and seven-year-olds. When he told one of them to go to first base that first day, the little guy walked over to third instead.

I figured, as is often the case when Ethan participates in extra-curricular type activities, that I should give the coach a heads-up about Ethan in case the kid gets distracted by the scoreboard in a nearby field (he loves keeping score!) and was suddenly screamed at to "drop and give me 10."

And so as the guy was loading equipment into his van after the (hour and a half long!) practice I casually mentioned that Ethan was on the spectrum and might be a little less social and a little more distractable than the average kid, and might become upset extra easily if he, say, was having trouble hitting the ball. I hate to say it, but it felt a little bit like Mom Insurance, like I had to let him know my kid wasn't just a "brat" if he acted out in these ways.

He kind of smirked and nodded, and I got the distinct sense that he may very well have been thinking that he was tired of all these mamby-pamby diagnoses and that the kid probably just needed some hard and fast discipline.

The day of the first game involved tears, rolling around on the floor, and proclamations that he "didn't like baseball and only wanted to play soccer," so you can imagine our surprise when sometime between the afternoon and the conclusion of the game, Ethan had decided he loved baseball even more than Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. That's a LOT of love.

And so things progressed fairly well from there. Ethan wasn't overly chummy with the boys on his team but wasn't an outcast either. His fielding skills improved and he was one of the better hitters of the bunch. The coach continued to yell (we won't talk about that disastrous day Ethan somehow couldn't find his hat and held up the game), but I've got to stay this boot-camp mentality didn't leave Ethan mentally scarred. The games still weren't really "official" baseball (no real score or outs, just batting around the order, and just an hour long) so they were manageable. As much as I love baseball, I dread next year, when the kids start pitching and they actually play by the rules. We're going to spend a lot of time on baseball fields.

Yet, I can't really dread it, for so many reasons. I wasn't sure Ethan would be able to play on a regular sports team without a lot of extra support. Sports are good for him: they take him away from the screen and expand his mind (along with getting him moving). They build his confidence. And they help him to adjust to all manner of personalities, including zealous coaches who may lose sight of the fact that this isn't Major League Baseball.

He's may not be the best player on the team; he may not be tossing the ball around on his own in the backyard; and he's not out there dreaming of playing for the Red Sox (who could really need some help) when he grows up. (Ethan's drawbridge operating aspirations are still going strong.) But he wants to play again next year, and he is looking forward to playing soccer in the fall.

That's more than enough for me.

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