Will had a big day on Saturday at Virginia Beach thanks to the Surfers Healing Foundation, which travels around each summer to take kids with autism out to do some surfing. Although he loves the beach, he was reluctant to go out to surf. They scooped him up and just took him out and got three great rides. Once he was out there, Will seemed relaxed, lounging on the board and waiting for new waves. The only problem is that he got very cold after being out there for a while and was ready to come in by the end. It’s always hard to tell if he really enjoys something or just tells you he does because he knows that’s what you want to hear. But after getting home, Will was excited to see the video clips and look at the pictures, laughing as he watched and saying that surfing was fun.
After having a very good season with the Braves this year, Ben made the 8-year old all-star team for his league. They host a tournament the last week in July, but as a warmup, they’re playing in a tournament in Rockville, Va. this week.
The first game was on Friday. Ben’s team lost to Richmond, 17-9, but was within 9-8 going into the last inning. Ben went 1-3 with an RBI and a run scored. He grounded out twice to shortstop, one of which was hit particularly well. His hit was a very well hit line drive single to center, which drove in a run.
He played a few innings in left field and had a very busy inning at catcher, including being in the center of the game’s one controversial play. On a play at the plate, Ben caught the throw as the running slid right into him and his glove. The runner was called out, but the ball came loose a second or two later and the umpire changed the call to safe. He was disappointed about it, but it was still a good play to hold on as long as he did.
Wearing his Magglio-inspired choice of number 30, Ben and his teammates run in after a 1-2-3 inning.
On Saturday, Ben’s team won big, 15-3, after falling behind 3-0 in the first inning. He grounded out twice to shortstop again but is hitting the ball pretty well.
Ben had an uneventful day in the field, playing two innings in left field without a play and one solid, quick inning at catcher before the game was ended after 4 innings because of the 10-run rule.
Click on “Read More” for several photos from the 2nd game.
Will had his first real birthday party last week, with a bounce castle (or “Jumping Castle,” as Will calls it) and all of his classmates.
The song fits the video really nicely, but I can’t take credit for having the insight to include this particular music. It’s a song called “Upside Down” by Jack Johnson, and it’s the theme song to the Curious George movie, which has been Will’s favorite video option lately. We had a Curious George theme for the party and had the movie soundtrack, which was all done by Jack Johnson, playing in the background. Upside Down is the song Will knows the best and was the obvious choice to use for the video, but it fits better than I could have imagined.
In all, the party was a tremendous success. The kids all had a great time bouncing around and playing in the garage/playroom. I think it was nice for all of them to be at a party where they were comfortable and around other kids they knew. I can only speak for Will, but typically, in any gathering with a number of kids, he’ll be on the periphery, just running around, self-stimming, and avoiding the crowd. But these guys were all in the middle of things, apparently comfortable and just having fun, which was great to see.
Ben had his first two regular season little league games on Friday night and Saturday morning. His team, the Braves, is off to a great start, with two big wins, and Ben is doing great, as well, and is showing incredible improvement from last year.
On Friday night, he had two doubles and a single. On Saturday, he had another double, grounded to the third baseman for a fielder’s choice, and had one strikeout. The strikeout might have been his best at bat, though, because he had a few excellent swings, and hit a line drive down the third base line that was probably the best ball he’s ever hit. It would have made it to the left field fence for a triple or home run if it hadn’t been foul by about a foot.
Below is one of the two doubles from Friday. As you’ll see, we’ll need to work with him on getting out of the box a little more quickly.
Ben also played very well on defense in both games. On Friday, he fielded two ground balls cleanly and made the putouts during an inning at first base and played an inning at catcher and did a good job.
On Saturday, he played another very good inning at catcher and got a game ball from his coach for his defense during two innings at first base. In the first inning, he caught a pop up and ran back to the base to double off a runner; in the last inning, he snagged a hard-hit ground ball and made the play at first for the final out of the game.
At the instructional league level, they move the kids around every inning, bouncing them back and forth between infield and outfield positions. Last year, in his first year at this level, Ben wasn’t comfortable enough catching the ball to play first base or catcher and had a really hard time in the one inning when he was used behind the plate.
After last season ended, Ben would ask me to practice with him a few times a week during the summer and fall and whenever the weather was decent in the winter. He really wanted to be able to play first base and catch this year, so we would practice catching high, low, backhand and forehand throws as a first baseman, and catching a variety of throws while he squatted like a catcher. It’s great to see how much he’s improved, especially because he has worked really hard to get to this point.
Comments from daily sheets sent home from Will’s school:
“Had a great day! Will enjoys school a lot, following directions well. He really enjoyed playing with the babies.”
“Will had a great day. Visited peer class for art, played with play-doh, responded to peers with prompting from teacher, came out of the room when it was time to leave and said, “Play Doh is fun!” Transitioning is going very well.”
“Will did a great job visiting peer classroom for art. He asked to play with babies for center time.”
“Will had a great day. Worked with Ms. Ester (Occupational Therapy); went to art in peer classroom and painted a beautiful picture. When he left the room he said art is fun.”
At Ben’s school, they have something called the “Mileage Club.” Twice a week, anyone who wants to take part goes to the school a bit early to run. They keep track of the number of laps they complete and get little tokens when they’ve reached certain milestones.
Ben started doing the mileage club last fall and picked it up again this spring, when it resumed after a winter layoff. He’s also run in a couple large kids runs in Richmond, both of which were a mile long. The first was last fall, done in conjunction with the Richmond Marathon; this picture is from the second one, which was held along with the Monument Ave. 10K the first Saturday in April.
Most of Friday was spent lounging and getting acclimated, after the late-night arrival (as well as playing a bit of Guitar Hero on Emily’s Playstation2). But on Friday evening, Mike, Sarah, Ben, and I went to Anaheim Stadium to see the Angels play the Pirates, while Will stayed home with Mimi and Mary Ellen.
It turns out it was a a very good game. The Pirates jumped out to a 4-0 lead, before the Angels eventually came back and sent the game to extra innings. By the time, Orlando Cabrera drove in the winning run in the 11th, we were already back at Mike & Mimi’s house, getting ready for bed. We didn’t wait out the extra innings, because we needed to get up early and catch a ferry the next morning to visit Jack at the scout camp on Catalina Island. More details on that in the next post.
Ben enjoyed the game, almost as much as he enjoyed the food, drink, and ice cream he got while we were there. The game was Ben’s second major league game of the week, after he and I drove up to DC to meet up with Kevin, and see the Tigers play the Nationals. We left that one a bit early, too, because it was a Monday night game, and I needed to get back for work the next morning. Of course, we also left because the Tigers had the game well in hand, leading 9-5. Fortunately, we didn’t have to witness Todd Jones nearly blow the game in the 9th, but the Tigers held on and won 9-8.
Ben added another major league game a week later, and unlike the Anaheim game, we have plenty of pictures of that one.
I’ve been very, very slow to get around to this, but I want to get caught up on the details of our California trip before I forget all about it. So here it goes:
Our flight out of Richmond was in the late afternoon on Thursday. We had a puddle-jumper to Chicago, then a late-night flight into LAX. Ben had made a trip to California last spring, so he was an old pro at flying. He played with his GameBoy and some other things we brought on the flight, and overall was perfectly content.
Will was the wild card. Since he hadn’t flown before, we had no idea how he’d react. As it turns out, he did very well. On the first flight to Chicago, not only did he not seem bothered by flying or by the noise, he was actually thrilled.
The strategy was to fly at night so that both kids would sleep, making the whole process a bit easier. It worked well for us, as both of them slept for essentially the entire Chicago-to-Los Angeles flight, although it probably didn’t work out quick so well for Mike and Mary Ellen, who picked us up at LAX at 1:00 or so in the morning.
(Pictures from the trip are available here.)