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Major Leaguers offer tips and encouragement for autistic kids in Harlem

New York baseball fans weren’t too pleased with Jake Marisnick on Thursday night after he threw out the potential tying run at the plate for the final out in the Astros’ win over the Yankees, but the jeers turned to cheers the following morning when he and teammate Alex Bregman shared their love of the game with a group of autistic kids at a ballfield in Harlem.

The pair of up-and-coming Astros represented the Major League Baseball Players Trust and highlighted the New York Center for Autism Charter School‘s fifth annual baseball event at the DREAM baseball field.

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“It’s good to get out here and give back,” Marisnick said. “Alex and I, we’ve kind of been blessed our entire lives and to come out and shed some light and see the excitement in these kids’ eyes is awesome. It’s fun to be a part of.” The event, which has run since 2013, provides an opportunity for dozens of autistic students across the city to play some baseball while getting some pointers and encouragement from major leaguers.

For about an hour, Bregman and Marisnick spent time on the diamond with the kids, playing catch, running the bases and throwing batting practice. Both players’ lives have been touched by autism, which affects nearly one in 68 American children, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“To be able to give back to these kids and spend time with them is so special to me,” Bregman said. “To be able to work with kids with autism is near and dear to my heart given that my godson has autism. Immediately when I got the opportunity to come out, I jumped on it. I had a blast today and it’s just awesome to see the smiles on their faces.”

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For that hour, DREAM Field’s stands were packed with family and friends watching the kids enjoy the sunny morning playing ball with major leaguers.

“They’re able to see their kids in almost a regular Little League experience, running the bases and interacting with Major League players,” Players Trust director Melissa Persaud said. “It’s great for the children, but I think it’s equally exciting and rewarding for the parents themselves.”

“They’re (the kids) having fun, they’re having a blast,” Bregman added. “They’re running the bases, they’re playing catch and they’re hitting the ball. They’re just having so much fun. They get to perform in front of a big crowd and they’re definitely having fun with it.”

Marisnick, who has ties to autism through his girlfriend’s family, noted the vibe he saw out of the kids as the event unfolded.

“They had so much energy, so much happiness and so much love,” Marisnick added. “It’s fun to be out here.”

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You can learn more about the NYC Autism Charter school and its efforts by clicking here.