Haskell team shows character, gives Autistic opponent a moment to remember in playoff game
Joslyn Lujan has been a fixture for the Marfa softball program through her entire high school career. As a senior, she's capping off 4 years (5 if you include the season she spent with the team in junior high) in the program when she graduates this month. But there are few moments that touched her team, or an opposing team, much like the final play in Marfa's area-round loss to Haskell earlier this year.
Lujan has Autism, a neural disorder that impairs social interaction and communication, and affects information processing in the brain.
With the Haskell Maidens close to putting a bow on the series and moving on to the quarterfinal round of the 1A Region I Softball playoffs, Marfa head coach Linda Ojeda had an assistant coach ask Maidens head coach John Foster a unique, and emotional request.
Could Joslyn step into the batters box and get a hit? Even as the question was posed, emotions already began to overflow.
"It was wonderful. Our girls were touched by it, their girls were tearing up. Fans were cheering. It was something special to be a part of," Foster told KTXS.
Foster was immediately onboard, though he asked to finish out the "official" game action, and it didn't take long for her team to make the most of an opponents one opportunity to appear in a playoff game during the final game of her high school career.
Haskell won the game via the mercy-rule before Lujan stepped to the plate. But shhh, let's just disregard that little formality.
"Once she actually got up there, I think that's when we all realized how special a moment it was," Marfa head coach Linda Ojeda said, via telephone.
"And on that first hit, she drove it up the middle towards second base. And I could hear the girls cheering for her. The girls from Haskell were telling her 'Go go! Go towards third base!'"
As Haskell coach Foster explained it, there were a few "miscues" when the defense tried fielding the ball.
It's not very often you see this kind of "pure" moment in sports. When competition is put aside for a greater purpose.
Earlier this year the story of Mitchell Marcus, a developmentally disabled high school student in El Paso, made headlines. Marcus was a team manager for the boys basketball team at EP Coronado this year and entered the final regular season game. With time winding down, and the other team in-bounding, the opposing player passing in the ball made sure Mitchell had a chance to make a basket, which he did.
The opposing player passed the ball right to Marcus, who was standing right under the basket, with just enough time left to make a layup.
So when we hear about moments like this in sports, we genuinely and instinctively root for "the other guy". As was the case for Haskell players and fans on this occasion.
"Seeing the girls on Haskell's team, and our girls. And parents on both sides (cheering). It was touching," Ojeda said.
As Lujan rounded third base and headed for home, her teammates streamed out of the dugout to welcome her. What better way to make the most of one playoff appearance than with an in-the-park home run?
Hopefully we can coach 'em (players) or teach 'em that being good people... that's what's important," Ojeda said.
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