Baseball program serves players with autism

July 29, 2012 (CHICAGO)

It was started by a father whose son is autistic and just wanted to play baseball with kids like him.

The Alex Cruz Autism Baseball Program meets every Sunday morning in the Little Cubs Field of Humboldt Park.

It started five years ago with the support of state Sen. Willie Delgado and a host of other people. Information goes out to parents from schools and at the annual Autism Walk at Soldier Field.

It is a 12-week program

Alex Cruz's son, Alex, is 17 years old.

"I was just a little skeptical of putting him in any program because you know our kids are special and some are non verbal and you know there's a lot of people out there that they make fun of our," the elder Cruz said. "The object…is showing them the fundamentals of baseball. Here everybody wins you know. Everybody is a winner here and it's just about having fun. Coming out and enjoying."

This summer , there are 60 kids playing. Their ages range from 5 to 22.

Rose McDonough's 13-year-old son, Michael, has been playing since the program started.

"I have yet to find a baseball strictly for autistic kids, so this was the first and only one I've heard of and its very nice because a lot of the kids go to school together and then they can be in a social activity outside from school," Rose McDonough said.

Parents not only volunteer to help the team, they also find it a great opportunity for networking.

"We exchange information and then we keep in touch over the year until baseball starts up again," Rose McDonough said. "We've become good friends with other parents and exchange information and join together like a little community."

The next goal for Alex is getting a basketball program for kids with autism.

"We're working on that, yes," he said.

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