Saturday, June 7, 2008

One Hit Wonder

**This is part two of a story I began yesterday, here. You'll need to read it first!**

A new pitcher came on, and we waited as he warmed up some powerful pitches. Obviously he got the signal from his coach, though, because he settled into some alternative pitching when my son took the plate.

One high lob, with a swing and a miss. Another pitch sailed over the plate. A third pitch... and a hit. A HIT! Not a hard one—the ball got about two thirds of the way to the pitcher--- but he hit that thing squarely!

It took him a while to figure out that he needed to run, and he was easily out at first base, bringing the team's inning to a close. By the time he even reached the base, though, he was mobbed. The bench had emptied as every single player on his team spontaneously flooded onto the field in excitement to congratulate him! At some point while his teammates were stampeding first base, I somehow managed to turn on my camera’s video switch, then continued to watch it unfold in disbelief, too stunned to let the tears roll. With the swarm of jubilant boys behind and around him, he just continued running, away from first base, around the sideline fence, and behind the bleacher where I sat.

People in our bleachers were clapping, cheering, and even crying as they saw that hit and watched that bench empty of every last player. If the kids had been larger, you might have almost expected them to lift him up on their shoulders! It seemed the kind of glorious moment that comes at the end of a sappy underdog-hero movie. And it was. And it wasn’t.

His face seemed to bear the grin of a kid in the midst of a fun spectacle as he rounded the corner. In an instant, though, he turned toward the parking lot, and took off for the car, sobbing.

One thing common in kids on the spectrum is some difficulty in interpreting social cues, those unspoken signals in interaction that most people gather and understand without a thought. Talk about a social cue! You hit the ball, get confused about running, get an out at your base, and then turn around to see a mob of teammates rushing at you. Yes, I guess that would be pretty confusing! Whether it was a positive response or a negative one, he had certainly never seen anyone else given this much attention. He also has sensitivities regarding body space and light touch, and profoundly prefers not to be where he perceives to be “in the middle,” which undoubtedly came into play in the scene as well.

He was overwhelmed, embarrassed, and not even quite sure how to interpret it all, yet the truth of what the boys were communicating was clear to everyone else watching: pure, overwhelming, enthusiastic joy for their teammate's success! (At the next game, one of the boys even brought him a bakery cupcake in honor of his hit. The coach gave him the game ball.)

Out in the parking lot, the coaches tried for a few moments to help him calm down, and then I came over to do my part. I hugged him and congratulated him on his awesome hit, affirming that he had done well and done the right things out there, and I spoke the truth about the boys' motives and reaction. There would be need and time later for much more processing and delicate framing of reality. Crucial celebration and talk of the "Amazing! Awesome!" hit, for the wide-eyed little boy searching so desperately for genuine success, belonging, distinction and admiration. And simultaneously, for the pre-adolescent who is very intelligent beneath the layers, is aware, and must live in reality, talk of how, no, people weren't necessarily cheering because the hit was objectively "amazing", but because they recognize that he is different and that it's hard for him, and that people respect those who accomplish what is hard for them.

But all of that work would continue later. For right then, I helped him verbalize his feelings ("Yes, that WAS too much! Next time you get a great hit, they'll have to control themselves better, huh?" Wink.) and get himself together so that he could play it cool in front of his peers.

"Get back to your bench, Bud! You always encourage your teammates and keep them cheerful on the bench, " I said. "They need you."


Jeana said...

Oh my heart. You were right--this story needed to be told.

Katherine@Raising Five said...

Oh Marian, I am so glad you are blogging! What a wonderful story - I was choking back the tears. I am so happy for your boy - and for the other boys on the team who are growing because of him.


Kim Ahrens said...

Amazing! I think I would have cried too if I'd been there!
Glad to know you're blogging. I'll have to visit it from time to time and read all the back stories. Visit mine at

Anonymous said...

You are a great storyteller! I'm so glad you started your blog. (I heard about you from Owlhaven)

Bea said...

Hooray for your new blog! I've always hoped you would start one, and this post has me bawling.

Brianna said...

I came back as promised and wow! What a ride! You do indeed have a gift for telling the story and your son's story was beautifully told. What can I say? I laughed, I cried. . . :)

Unknown said...

Happy tears here :) I have two boys on the spectrum so I can only imagine the mixed emotions you were feeling. I am glad your son has such great team mates! :)