on wednesday the duke's baseball team assisted the little league's challenger division in a game.
the challenger division is for kids of all ages who are mentally and/or physically challenged and want to play baseball. the little league pairs the two challenger teams up with two majors teams for each game. two majors players assist one of the challenger players in fielding, batting, and running the bases.
the duke has been talking about this for awhile and was looking forward to it. he wondered if he would be paired with our friend maggie, who has autism and is non verbal.
sure enough he and another teammate got to assist maggie. who is very very physically capable. so when you say "assist" maggie you are essentially saying "reigning" her in! always.
maggie, in short, is a pistol. i have seen this firsthand a number of times and it didn't stop on the ball field. so first things first her mother armed the duke and his teammate with bags of skittles and warned them to be quick about it.
the duke found out exactly what this meant when maggie kicked him hard in the shin when he was a little too slow on the skittles distribution. he got the message after that.
this was even before the game. during the game they were in the outfield. a place in which maggie's mother assured me the ball never goes. but that didn't stop maggie from getting into the action. every time the ball was hit maggie went running from the outfield to the infield all the way across to home plate and back. she didn't go for the ball. she was just running to run AND to kick up as much dirt as she could on the way in and out. and as she went running you saw two boys with bags of skittles in hand running after her trying to keep up and steer her back in.
and because they didn't spray down the infield before hand that was a LOT of dirt every time.
before each ball was hit i saw the duke lean in to maggie and say something, gesturing to the infield, and then very deliberately planted his feet and got his glove at the ready. he was trying to show her what to do. he was trying. he was patient and i never saw him lose his composure. and every time he did this.
and every time maggie went running from the outfield to the infield all the way across to home plate, kicking up as much dirt as she could there and back. and you saw two boys with skittles in hand running after her, trying to keep up.
and when the duke went and got her a bottle of water and asked her if she wanted some she dumped it on his head. and he said
"well that was refreshing."
so all of this went on for three solid innings and then it was done. and it was great fun to watch. you never saw a group of kids have a better game. every ball that was hit, base rounded, home plate crossed was reason for a rousing cheer.
there just wasn't all the usual crap that can go on with baseball. none of the coaches shouting or players hanging their heads, none of the parents getting nervous about their child's performance. no pacing. just a bunch of kids getting to play baseball and a bunch of parents enjoying watching them do it. and it was really nice to see.
after the game the duke said how much he enjoyed the game. he brushed off being kicked in the shin, covered in dirt from the infield ramblings, or having water dumped on him. he just had fun.
and then the next morning he brought it up again and wondered if he'd be able to participate in another game.
every baby is a mystery. you really never know who you're going to get when you give birth. who they're going to grow up to be. and when it's bull's eye obvious you got one of the good ones, well, it's pretty darned awesome.