Stones first mariners gameOne of the joys of being a parent is experiencing “first” experiences with your kids. You’re never quite sure what to expect in many cases and this is especially so when you have a child on the spectrum. Being the sports nut that I am, I was always excited to share a trip to a ball game with my kids. I took Ty to his first baseball game on Father’s Day in 2012, when the Giants were in town to play the Mariners. It was a very special occasion as my Dad (who shares my love for sports) was able to join us so we had 3 generations together at the ballpark. But as special as that day was, there was still a bit of a void for me because Stone wasn’t there with us.

Stone doesn’t care much about sports overall – especially watching them. As part of his ABA therapy he’s been playing catch with a football and baseball with the therapist (and I’ve followed up on it) and he has shown great talent in snagging the ball. So I do think there is hope and potential for him in playing some kind of sports down the road a bit. But when it came to bringing Stone to an actual Mariners (or Ducks football) game, there was just no way he would sit through the whole game.

And that’s what made today really special. For the first time ever, we brought Stone to a Mariners game and he made it through the entire game (not without a few protests to be sure, but nothing serious).

Today’s was the result of a lot of growth and progress by Stone – with some assistance from technology and food as well. Two weeks ago I happened upon a post on the Facebook group Snohomish County Asperger’s and More Support Group, “I have 4 extra tickets for the Mariner’s Autism Awareness Special game on Sunday, July 13th at 1:10. You get admission and ball hat for ticket. Selling for $20 each (what I paid). You would be joining 21 of my family and friends supporting our son.”

I thought that for $20, it wasn’t much of a gamble to try to take Stone to a game for the first time. He has been to Safeco Field twice before on Fan Fest days and enjoyed the experience. Like most kids, he especially enjoyed the ballpark food! Renee and I decided it was worth a shot taking the whole family to the game – Ty has turned into a bit Mariners and baseball fan so he was thrilled to go to another game.

We arrived an hour early and hit the concession stands. Given Stone’s dietary restrictions, we wanted to be careful with what we bought there. Unfortunately, most of the gluten-free and casein-free options come in the form of candy (either cotton or boxed). We did buy a couple of hot dogs though and shared those with with the boys (making sure Stone didn’t have any of the bun). But we made it work and other than a sugar spike (which we always have to monitor given his sugar cravings) I think we did a good job of making the trip feel special without giving into food choices we would later regret.

As I said, Stone doesn’t care about baseball too much so he didn’t really watch the game. But he was a good sport about standing for the national anthem and enjoying the atmosphere overall. We did have to use Renee’s smart phone for some of the game (so he could watch videos to keep him somewhat entertained) and by the 6th inning it was clear he was getting bored sitting in one seat as he started to ask to go home. But we told him it wouldn’t be too much longer and he was mostly content as long as he could sit on my lap (which is becoming increasingly more challenging given his growth spurt that has pushed his weight past 80 pounds).

As I told friends and family members leading up to the game, my expectations for Stone at the game were fairly low. I wanted him to have fun and to allow us to enjoy the activity together as a family. Most kids who go to a ballgame for the first time have no idea what is really going on during the game – they just enjoy the atmosphere and the experience. I know it will take Stone longer to learn and appreciate sports such as baseball and football but it will happen over time. For now I’m just grateful that he has progressed to the point that we were able to go and accomplish the main goal: we all had fun and we even made it until the end of the 8th inning. Ironically, Ty was the one who pushed for us to leave early because he didn’t want to see the Mariners lose (they were down 3-1 at that point). Given the success of the day to that point, I wasn’t going to argue with him about leaving early. And even though the M’s went on to lose, the day and experience were both a big win in my book.

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