often, there are accounts of teams or organizations making accommodations to allow for a special needs individual to participate. they may allow the individual to score a touchdown with the opposing team’s cooperation or engage in some symbolic act. these events are wonderful. much credit is due to the participants and their thoughtfulness.
this story, however, is not one of those stories. this is the true story of a special individual who stepped up without an assist and delivered.
prior to coaching baseball, i spent many years as a religious school teacher. it was an opportunity to work with a variety of special needs children. they were all mainstreamed with their similarly aged contemporaries. when our jr. baseball team was assigned a special needs player, i embraced the opportunity to work with him and develop his skills to the best of his ablity.
for this blog, i will call him “john.” john was both mentally and physically impaired. his motor skills were lacking but he possessed great strength. he was perhaps the strongest player on the team. being an assistant coach, i was able to take john aside to work on his batting. other knowledgeable parents assisted as well. john put in his time and improved his game.
near the end of the season, we played a game against a rival team. as it was off season league, the games were not formal. regardless, they were competitive. wins mattered. during off season games, all players batted in order even if they were not playing in the field.
this game was going to be a great test. on the mound was one of their best pitchers.
during the game, john had at least two memorable at bats against this pitcher. he crushed the ball delivering two hits and drove in runs. the team was amazed. it was surreal. john owned this great pitcher. his big hits, were instrumental in victory.
it was a wonderful moment for john, his family, and the team.
the story did not end there.
the moment was even more amazing in retrospect. the pitcher, who john dominated on that one amazing day, went on to be a great high school pitcher. he even went on to pitch a “no-hitter” in a high school playoff game and played college baseball. his feat was done against great competition.
in sum, john succeeded all on his own. standing at the plate in a baseball game is quite humbling. three strikes on three poor swings and having players do the walk of shame. batting is truly an individual’s moment. the focus is entirely on them. everything good or bad can be based upon solely on their actions. this individual’s effort with skill and time that can lead to a powerful connection to the ball. john did it multiple times all on his own.
i have been blessed with a few great coaching memories such as having a future major league pitcher on our team. john’s performance remains one of the best.
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