Wife to Rob Egan
When my oldest son was born, my husband immediately had visions of baseball games dancing in his head. Little league games, high school games....lots of cheering from the stands, coaching in the backyard and pick-up games at the playground. Friends and family showered us with countless baseball outfits, sleepers, toys etc. baseball was in the kid's future. When our youngest son was born two years later, the cycle started all over again.
Our boys loved the ballpark from a very young age. It was their own personal playground. They loved running around on the field after the games, they loved all the bats, balls and hats. They were too young to show any real inclination for the sport, but they were definitely familiar with the game. Our youngest son especially, seemed to show some athletic ability. The kid could (and would!) run like the wind. Rob was pleased.
Rob has always been a huge sports fan. Baseball has always been his first love. At a young age, it was apparent (so I'm told) that Rob lacked much in the way of athletic prowess. What he lacked in skill, he made up for in knowledge. He became a true student of the sport. I think this is why he made such a good broadcaster. He knew the game, and knew it well. He has amazing recall of stats, names, rules etc.
While Rob was accepting of the fact that he was not an athlete, I think he expected to live vicariously through his boys. What parent doesn't do this? Completely normal.
But our boys? Not normal.
At age three-and-a-half, our oldest son Drew was diagnosed with autism. Simple things like waiting his turn or not succeeding the first time, were extremely difficult for Drew to deal with. He also had poor upper body strength and his coordination was lacking.
This is hard news for any parent to hear and accept. In my experience, it's easier for the Mom. Moms are more "ok, that's the problem/issue. Now, what can we do?" Dads, especially with their sons, need to mourn that boy and man they always thought their son would be. For Rob, that was an athlete. Playing baseball was just not in the cards for Drew.
A few years later, our younger son Gabe, was also diagnosed with autism. This diagnosis was harder on both Rob and me. Two? Really? It took a little longer to find our pace, but we did. And once again, there was the mourning period.
Around this time, a new baseball field was being built in town. It was a Miracle League field. This was immediately exciting for us. The Miracle League was the baseball answer for us, as well as many other families in our area. The field is rubberized, and cushioned. Perfect for kids with coordination issues, as well as those who use walkers or wheelchairs.
The Miracle League is all-inclusive. Anyone, of any age, who has a disability or special need, can play baseball. At our Miracle League we have athletes with down's syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy, blindness and a myriad of other diagnoses. We have children as young as three years old, and adults in the forties.
Everyone bats, everyone gets a hit, and everyone scores a run. There are no outs, and every game ends in a tie. Buddies are provided to help the athletes as well as protect them. We play two innings, singing Take Me Out to The Ballgame in between.
It is an experience everyone should take part in. It is inspiring, heartwarming and fun. The kids are excited to wear their "uniforms" and to be a part of a team.
At the end of the season, every player receives a trophy, with their name engraved on it.
Are our boys gifted baseball players? No, not really. Drew can hit, and his throwing and catching is coming along. Is he ready for little-league? Not so much. Even at age ten, waiting his turn is difficult. Getting tagged out, called out or striking out would be devastating for him. He tends to be a bit of a ball-hog, so fielding would be problematic as well. He proudly plays Miracle League Baseball. He wears the uniform of his Dad's team, the Altoona Curve, and he wears it proudly.
Gabe will likely never play little-league either. I don't think this bothers him a bit. He has no interest in fielding, he just wants to hit and run. If he touches at least two of the bases as he runs by, we consider it a success. Personally, I often think he loves the Miracle League games because of the pretty young girls who often buddy. Eight years old and he's girl crazy to the max.
Miracle League baseball has become an important part of our lives. It gives our boys a chance to play the game that their Dad loves so much and that they spend so much time watching. It's an opportunity to visit with other parents in similar situations. Our (very VERY regular ed.) daughter runs around with the other siblings and cheers on her brothers. It's a wonderful experience for us all.
Miracle league has a wonderful motto:
"Every Child Deserves A Chance to Play Baseball"I couldn't agree more.