NEW YORK -- Astros third baseman Alex Bregman's godson was diagnosed with autism a year and a half ago, and with Houston in town to play the Yankees this weekend, the opportunity came for him to participate in the New York Center for Autism Charter School's fifth annual baseball extravaganza.Bregman
NEW YORK -- Astros third baseman Alex Bregman's godson was diagnosed with autism a year and a half ago, and with Houston in town to play the Yankees this weekend, the opportunity came for him to participate in the New York Center for Autism Charter School's fifth annual baseball extravaganza.
Bregman didn't think twice about volunteering.
"Immediately when I got this opportunity to come out here, I jumped on it," Bregman said. "I've had nothing but fun today. It's been a blast."
Bregman and teammate Jake Marisnick represented the MLB Players Trust at DREAM Baseball Field on Friday, where they played baseball with a few dozen autistic students from the five boroughs of New York City. The Players Trust is a charitable foundation created by MLB players to help improve the lives of others through community involvement.
For about an hour, Bregman and Marisnick ran the bases and played catch with the students. They pitched plastic Wiffle balls and rubber baseballs to the children and cheered them on when the bat connected with the ball. There were no shortages of high fives or smiles from both the professional players and their youth counterparts.
One student named Odin briefly stood in the infield grass while one of his classmates hit, but he couldn't contain the joy of the day by staying still. He started laughing and ran toward second base with his hands in the air. It was that kind of day for many of the students.
"It's awesome to come out here and see the joy these kids have [playing]," Marisnick said. "And it helps us to come out here and see these kids and how much fun they're having. It reminds us we're playing a game."
Players Trust director Melissa Persaud said this event allows the parents of the students with autism a chance to see their children in a normal Little League setting. Their kids are playing baseball on a youth baseball field, and they get to cheer them on.
"They're able to see their kids in almost a regular Little League experience, running the bases and interacting with Major League players," Persaud said. "It's great for the children, but I think it's equally exciting and rewarding for the parents themselves."
Said Bregman: "This is so much fun. You see how much fun the kids are having. And to be able to watch them smile and play the game that we play for a living really puts everything in perspective. … Any time I can work with MLB Players Association to do events like this again, I will."
Matt Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York.