These two pictures, to an innocent bystander, look innocuous. Summertime. Sunshine. Sunnyvale, CA. Two kids. Two bats. A baseball diamond. An at-bat during a Junior Giants baseball game.
But what these pictures don't tell are the joy and smiles behind those surgeon’s masks. A coach who advocated for them and made sure they felt like they were part of a team.
That's Nathan Lau with the neon yellow bat. And his twin brother, Gabriel Lau, with the green bat. Two boys who were diagnosed to be on the autism spectrum at 19 months old. Two parents who were told that their boys' lives had essentially stopped before they even started living: speech delays, learning disabilities, physical & social challenges, probably no friends, etc.
But along the way, something amazing happened. Nathan and Gabriel started talking. They started reading. They started learning. They became avid sports fans. 49ers. Sharks. Warriors. And, of course, the Giants.
Still, challenges remained. They struggled socially, and because of that, their opportunities to play sports and BE a part of a team were limited. The one team game that they desperately wanted to be a part of, baseball, seemed far-fetched. They loved and still love baseball.
Enter Junior Giants...and a program that actually practiced what they preached about inclusion. Enter Coach Chris Ochoa, who didn't treat them any differently from other kids who wanted to learn the game and made sure they had ample opportunities to have fun.
The boys, whose parents were told 12+ years ago to expect the worst, were living out their dreams of just being on a baseball team. Living out their dreams of playing in a baseball game. Living out their dreams of taking a fastball down and away and slapping it through the gap between 1st and 2nd for a base hit. Living out their dreams of picking up a grounder at 3rd base and throwing a rope to rob the batter of a base hit.
Yes, those two pictures look plain, boring, and normal. But to the boys and to their parents, on that day, plain, boring, and normal meant miraculous.