Saturday was opening day for little league here in our town. A big deal for many, and this year, that included the Roc.
The Roc was so excited to put on his uniform that morning and even donned the matching baseball cap and kept it on all day. So delighted in his uniform that he refused to wear a coat, but would allow a long sleeve undershirt – it was windy! As we walked to the middle school where the parade would start we discussed the order of events for the day: parade, opening ceremonies, team picture, and then the first game. I found it hard to prep for the first three activities as we had never done them before, we hadn’t had an real game yet either, but I figured that would be similar to the 2 practices we had already attended.
As we approached the big wall of kids and coaches in the middle school parking lot the Roc just stopped. Stopped still and wouldn’t budge. I had been busy looking for the challenger division coordinator and the wall of people didn’t even phase me until my arm locked up as he halted. I scooped him up and maneuvered through the crowd and he clung to me, not normal for him, so I knew he was really feeling anxious. Luckily the challenger team was scheduled to lead the parade and the kids got to ride in a wagon so they were located right at the parking lot entrance and we didn’t have to push too far into the mass of humanity. Once settled in the wagon the Roc seemed to zone out. Too much motion and noise. Too many bodies in one area. I wondered aloud to GC if he was going to freak out and I cringed as the coordinator hopped up onto the wagon to move him back to make room for a wheelchair. And then I marveled at how he held himself together while she spoke to him, and directed him out of the way. How he followed her directions and stood by while she held onto to him to keep him from getting squashed. Last year he would have shrunk back from her touch and he would have screeched at the intrusion. He was stiff and I could tell he was uncomfortable, but he didn’t melt.
As soon as the sign was given the wagon gate closed and the parade started. GC and I walked a few paces behind the wagon and tried to get the Roc to smile and wave. He would give us a brief smile but never did he wave. He seemed a bit shell shocked. As the parade started and a few bystanders clapped and waved at the kids I turned to GC and said, “I’m such a dork. These things always get to me. Looking at all these kids, seeing strangers smile and clap for them…the Roc included…” to which he replied “You’re going to cry aren’t you?”
Almost, I just got a little teary eyed. Teary eyed for the kids, for their parents, and in appreciation for those who supported them instead of ignoring them. For those who smiled and waved back instead of looking through them, instead of looking down the street for their kid. There were many who looked into the wagon and then looked away. Many who didn’t smile or wave. Many who have no clue…but I refused to feel anything for them. But to those who clapped and cheered for the challenger kids: Thank you.
The parade was short, just from the middle school to the nearby park. The challenger wagon was led to third base and the kids sat or roamed the area until the ceremony started. GC stayed with the Roc and I tried to hang back. I want this to be their thing, so I took pictures.
After the ceremony we trooped over to where the team pictures would be taken, the Roc wasn’t about to get into the shot and so GC ended up in the team picture! He is front and center with the Roc on his lap and another little boy draped on his arm! I was glad I signed the Roc up for an individual picture because I stood behind the photographer and on the third try, he got a good one! I can’t wait to get them now! My neighbor took a photo of all three of us as we waited for the rest of the team to be photographed.
Then we went into the dugout to have a snack and the Roc protested my photographing him.
After a quick snack they warmed up,
the Roc caught the attention of a little cutie,
and then they played the game!
Three days later and I’m still finding it hard to describe the way I felt as I watched GC and the Roc on Saturday. GC had always wanted a little boy and when the Roc was a baby he mentioned how he would help him with sports, maybe even coach a chosen sport one day. I kept this in mind when I signed the Roc up for the challenger team and committed GC to be his buddy, before I even told him about it. I knew it would be good for both of them. It was a dream come true, with a twist, for the Roc to be on a baseball team and for GC to be his buddy. It may not be exactly like he dreamed as he held his infant son, but I truly believe it is better. There is no pressure on the challenger team. No score is kept. No competitive parents complaining about coaches or umpires, the position their child is playing, or the amount of time their child gets to play. That attitude has no place or purpose during our games. How refreshing for parents to support all the children, to celebrate what they CAN do, and cheer them on. To get back to the reason the kids want to play in the first place – FUN.