Monday, June 11, 2007


Back in March, Leo decided he wanted to play baseball. In my town, it's quite unusual to have a boy that's never played at his age. Of course they try T Ball and if they don't like it they move on. When Leo was T Ball age we were light years away from doing it.
Since he no longer wanted to do Tae Kwon Do, I really wanted him to do some type of sport. I bravely said "Yes", knowing we'd be yet again in uncharted territory, facing the ultimate challenge, a ball, a SMALL HARD ball coming very fast towards Leo's face. I was very proud of him for wanting to try, knowing that most kids would have some experience. I was mostly proud that he wanted to try something new.

For about a year or so Leo has been playing catch regularly - football, and baseball, with Dad. He's also been playing some ball sports at school. Amazing to me that with his sensitivities he sought these things out. His obsession with sports and statistics helps I'm sure. He practiced on his own, replaying real plays in his head, almost every day after school as a decompression/transition activity.

The first few games were torture. Pure torture for old Mom here. Although this league is very laid-back and very supportive, I truly felt for him. Here was Leo, this giant kid (single A since he's never played and the oldest kid)that couldn't hit the damn ball. Not a surprise, the timing and the pitching machine really threw him. They gave him extra chances in still no luck. He was the ONLY kid on his team (and the other) that just couldn't hit the ball. He sat at the end of the bench, by himself, completely bummed but not giving up. I think what saved him was that he could throw and catch well enough in his position on first base.I sat there, deer in the headlights, wondering what I should say. Should I let him quit? At what point? On the drive home he said "I'm upset but I'll survive Mom". I reminded him about how it took him a long time to overcome his fear of swimming, but that he did overcome it and now LOVES to swim. The next game the coach brought a T-Ball thingy just for him to practice with. Leo was a little put-off by it since no one else had to use it, but I reminded him that it doesn't matter, and no one cares. The point is learning how to do it.

The next game he finally Leo "touched" the ball with the bat. Everything changed. I was crying behind my sunglasses. Big smile from Leo. He did it! He couldn't hit it the rest of the game but it didn't matter.

After that game we stopped at the grocery store across the street for a treat to celebrate - Tofutti, natch. Sydney, Leo, and I were getting in line when I saw a very familiar face in the aisle nearby. It was Amy! Leo's former ABA Clinical Supervisor - the person that designed and implemented Leo's ABA programs. It was like seeing family. She WAS like family for years. And I do miss our long conversations and our former closeness. I was overjoyed to see her and I immediately told her that we just came from baseball practice. I squinted and shook my head and she immediately got my message - those issues no longer keep him from playing a ball sport.

Leo looked at Amy and said in an inquisitive voice, "Who are you?" noticing that I am super-friendly with this person and Sydney knows her. We exchange looks and smiles, and quickly says "I'm Amy". He says he doesn't know her. Amy says "Don't worry about it." We then tell him she's a friend of his former shadow. He remembered HER alright. Tailed him for years.

I can't describe that feeling - having a "normal" day I suppose? Baseball. Grocery shopping. Leo not remembering his past as much.

The next game Leo catches a ball as 1st baseman, a close one. As the ball was landing in his glove, he shut his eyes tight. The reaction I'm more accustomed to seeing. I smile with seeing that familiar face. Leo opens his eyes and smiles at the site of the ball and confirmation from the coach's face.

The coach says, "You can open your eyes now Leo."

Leo wanted to march in the Memorial Day Parade. He had so much fun! Just a few short years ago that would've been suicide, just attending a parade. It was so cute seeing Leo and his team in their uniforms walking.

Just one more game. He's going to miss it.


Steve said...

Thanks for the wonderful, inspirational post! How incredible it must be to see him not only play baseball but to strive through adversity.

Ashley loves Leo said...

Thank you Steve. Yes, it was amazing that Leo used his past experiences as fuel to get what he wanted - to hit that damn ball. We started with a ball on a rope going soohh slowly back and forth!

I hope he'll always be this way. I keep retelling his own success stories to him, hoping he won't forget where he came from.

Of course, Sydney's first real swing was out of the park! She's such a natural, so amazing to me when a child does something without intervention first.