Fighting To Play

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 - 2:34pm

Coach says he won't allow autistic Little Leaguer to play.

Bailey Robinson loves everything about playing baseball.

"I just wait for it to hit it and then -- bam! -- run to first base," he explained.

Bailey, 11, started playing baseball when he was 5 years old.

The White Cloud, Michigan dreams of being a pitcher, maybe even one day for his favorite team the Detroit Tigers.

Both he and his dad don't want this dream cut short, but Bailey has epilepsy and autism, and his coach said he just doesn't feel it's safe and right for Bailey to play with other boys his age.

"I think I can play baseball and that I'm better sometimes than others, most of the time," said Bailey.

Bailey's dad Billy Shea says that his son's coach said having Bailey on the team might be a problem because Bailey could get hurt.

"I just don't understand why a child with a disability can't receive the same treatment as a child without," said Shea. "Kids are going to get hurt. Kids do get hurt. But like any other child, he's been hurt around here when we've been practicing, but shrugs it off and learns from it."

Shea said even though he and his wife got approval from a doctor and are fine with their son being out on the field, the coach just isn't.

"Bailey cried when we had explained everything to him," said Shea.

Bailey's coach Tim Frisbie said he wanted to sit down face-to-face with Bailey's parents and directors of the league to discuss his concerns and options, and added he wouldn't feel safe putting Bailey in a game.

He said he doesn't think Bailey has the coordination or motor skills to play with kids his age.

"It's a safety issue for him, as well as other people who are throwing the ball to him. That's the bottom line," Frisbie said. "I don't want to put other boys in a position where they would hit him and hurt him."

Frisbie said his main concern is a game situation in which other players and coaches wouldn't know how to play with Bailey.

He went to to say, "There's other ways we can have him be part of the team or have him part of a team without him getting hurt."

It's a sentiment Don Barnhard, the town coordinator of the Tri City Little League, echoes.

White Cloud is a part of the Tri-City Little League.

That league is made up of about 200 kids from White Cloud, Hesperia, Grant, and Kent City.

League rules state that said each kid on the roster must have at least on at bat per game.

Barnhard said that they are not trying to push Bailey out of the league by any means.

"We do everything we can to get every kid possible to play," said Barnhard.

Barnhard said he hasn't seen Bailey play, but said they've talked the situation over with the Little League and, if needed, might move him down to play with a different age group.

"Not that we don't want him to be with kids his own age, it's just a safety issue," said Barnhard.

Frisbie said there's no animosity between the coaches and Bailey's parents.

He also said other boys on the team know Bailey and want to help him.

But Bailey and his dad said that even if he's a little different, that doesn't mean he shouldn't be allowed to play ball.

"They're a little different, too, and I don't like it when they say that about me," said Bailey.

Frisbie said one possible solution is to drop Bailey down to a lower age level.

If that happens, that would mean Bailey would not play in the "majors" division of 11- and 12-year-old kids, he would play with younger kids in the "minors" or "pee wee" groups.

Parents on Monday report that is something that league organizers have done before for other children with disabilities, including one girl with scoliosis.

Barnhard said this is not a problem they frequently see in White Cloud's little league.

Both the coaches and Bailey's parents said they plan to have a face-to-face meeting about the issue that will hopefully take place this week.

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