This blog post is by Frank Nappi, author of 'The Legend of Mickey Tussler'
Baseball and Autism? That seems to be the perfect combination these days. As the author of The Legend of Mickey Tussler series, novels that feature as their protagonist an autistic teen blessed with a killer fastball, I have come to understand just how powerful the blending of the two can really be. While the two subjects might appear at first glance to be unrelated, one only need observe the two together to see that this union has the unique power to engender awareness, understanding, tolerance and ultimately acceptance.
It is this recognition that remains the motivation for The New York Mets, who partnered with Autism Speaks on Sunday May 6th, to host their annual Autism Awareness Day at Citi Field. It was a magical afternoon indeed, replete with smiles, laughter, and plenty of wonderful activities, including booths featuring Super Soccer Stars, Dance Dance Revolution, and Art Therapy courtesy of the Queens Museum of Art.
As I considered what was transpiring all around Bullpen Plaza, I was reminded that one of the most rewarding endeavors I have ever pursued, one that has enhanced the quality of my life as well as the lives of my wife and children, is the volunteer work I have been fortunate enough to perform the last few years with groups such as Best Buddies and Challenger Baseball. Working so closely with autistic children and teens and getting to know their families has been more fulfilling than I ever could have imagined. There is something so genuinely warm and endearing about these special folks; I have found that my time spent in their company has enlightened and inspired me. The simplicity of heart and genuine affection that these amazing individuals have demonstrated toward me and my family, despite living in a society that by in large does not extend enough compassion and understanding, is truly remarkable. Breathtaking actually. So many "regular" people could learn so much from these special needs individuals; their affect and demeanor is most worthy of celebration and emulation. It is for this reason that days like this at Citi Field are so important.
The New York Mets' 10th Annual Autism Awareness Day at Citi Field, like all Best Buddies and Challenger Baseball events, embodied everything that is right about the world - or perhaps everything that could and should be right. This was an afternoon where at every turn, one could observe this communion of souls, a special arena which celebrated and spotlighted people helping people - for no other reason except just that. The inimitable smiles and laughter of those who are "disadvantaged" was priceless, rivaled only by the glow of satisfaction on the faces of those who were at Citi Field volunteering. I have witnessed this magic before - and it is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
It is this beauty and inspiration that lead to my creation of my Mickey Tussler series. My character Mickey is the embodiment of all of that the magic I have witnessed over many years and has become a wonderful vehicle for me to further connect with families of special needs children and teens. I was most pleased with the opportunity to share my books with these special families.
Events such as The New York Mets Autism Awareness Day are a regular part of my life and the lives of my wife Julia and boys, Nick and Anthony. We have been involved with Challenger Baseball for several years and all of us look forward to every Sunday when we can give of ourselves, knowing (selfishly perhaps) that we are receiving so much more in return. We have all become part of Best Buddies as well, and have forged many special friendships there too. Our lives are enriched immeasurably because of it.
As we as a society continue to promote awareness of our special needs citizens, events like the 6th Annual Autism Awareness Day at Citi Field become increasingly vital to the successful execution of this endeavor. I can only hope that more professional sports organizations will take note and emulate the wonderful program that The New York Mets and Autism Speaks have all but perfected.
For more about Autism and baseball, please visit www.franknappi.com
Autism Speaks President Mark Roithmayr Throwing Out Opening Pitch