Peter and baseball….not Special Olympics baseball, but an off shoot of Little League that was for children with types of special needs. This league was organized and run by a very special person named Jackie, who deserves a standing ovation for all the time and energy she put into this activity. Come summer, without any hitches, summer baseball took place at one of the town’s tiny parks. Over the years, the number of participants grew so much, that Jackie actually petitioned the city to make three diamonds, with mini-dugouts, a home for the game. As Peter grew, the league grew with the number of participants and varying special needs, from visually challenged, orthopedically challenged, or mentally challenged. Wheelchairs abound on the playing field; everyone played…fun to watch.
Every Saturday, until recently, Peter and I traveled to the park to play ball. Always wanting to have Peter included in whatever he could, I signed him up at a young age. Peter, being Peter, in the beginning resisted going to play. You know the story…I do not know why…once on the field he had a blast. It was always getting him from A to B. A being getting him there and B is getting him to play. What happened in that never land between A and B in his mind remains a mystery to me.
At this young age, when he joined or should I say, I signed him up, began a Mexican standoff that lasted for years. I, believing, this was a “good thing”, drove him every week to the park. Getting him in the car was challenging in itself, but then, getting him to play was an even more grievous task that took years to overcome. You see, Peter and I were both blessed with a huge heaping of Stubbornness, and who would win, was always ongoing. I, the mother, was going to win this one. So, every Saturday, we got up early, got dressed, I managed to coerce him into the car, we drove, and when we got to the park, Peter refused to play. I decided that if I kept coming, eventually Peter would play. So, every week for several years we drove, and then Peter and I sat on the bleachers, whiles I and the coaches gently tried to get Peter to at least bat. Much bench sitting passed until one day; Peter made the move to bat. Finally, he went from the bleaches to the batting cage! How glorious! However, once up to bat, there was the issue of the helmet which weighed more than Peter. He did agree to put it on, cockeye, leaning a bit to the left and then the right, and off he went to bat, a huge accomplishment in all our minds, another step for Peter.
The volunteer pitcher cautiously threw the ball at Peter. Now, if you want to seek an act of patience taking place, it is the pitching process to batters. The ball gets thrown as often as necessary until it is hit, touched, or at least, gone in the general direction where it could be counted as “in play”. Minutes may pass, as one bat. Then the “hit” takes place. The hit could be a dribble, and drop to the ground next to the player’s feet, it could go five feet, or twenty and it did not matter. As in Peter’s mind, it was of course, a home run. After the hit occurs, everyone jumps to their feet, shouting “great hit”, no matter the length, and the batter runs around the bases, sometimes passing up the person in front of him or her. And the volunteers try so hard to get the batter out with no avail, they accidently drop the ball, and just cannot quite get the runner out.
Peter continued his baseball days until he was out of school. Throughout his years, he remained a bit skeptical sometimes playing, sometimes only hitting, and other times truly engaged in the sport. Every day a triumph for him in some small way. What motivated him to play some days and not on other… I will never know…..maybe someday I will discover the secret, the answer, the line that connects A to B. Until then, I know there will be more coercing, negotiating, and clapping when the “B” is reached.