Veteran from Tacoma building baseball league for kids with autism

TACOMA, Wash. -- A Tacoma man who served on the battlefield is now working on a new mission back home. He plans to bring an alternative baseball league for teenagers and adults with autism to local baseball fields.

Jon DePerro served four tours as a Chief Warrant Officer: two tours in Iraq and one in each Afghanistan and Kuwait.

“In the military we have a cliché, we say you just have to improve the foxhole,” DePerro said. “If we all just improve our foxhole and the next guy improves it a little bit and the next guy then that’s how we as a group get to a better place.”

For DePerro, it’s Tacoma that he wants to make a better place for people living with autism.

“We’re going to design the training curriculum from scratch and recognize that different players are coming from different ability levels,” said DePerro.

DePerro said he chose baseball and not another sport, because baseball parallels a lot of life lessons he hopes to pass along.

“It can teach some really good lessons about resiliency and getting up and trying again and again until you get it,” said DePerro.

But it’s not just DePerro’s love of the game and those lessons that’s inspired him to engage those with autism. He has an even bigger reason- his son, Vincent. Doctors diagnosed 10-year-old Vincent with autism in 2015.

“I wanted him to be able to do go do sports and be part of a team but I just couldn’t find an environment catered for people with autism,” said DePerro.

Vincent is fully on board with his dad’s plans. Vincent says he knows his dad will do great, because he turns to Vincent for advice on how teenagers with autism are feeling to help him understand his own coaching.

“My goal for Vincent is to help him be the most Vince he can be, to work within what some people would call constraints… but I think they’re just features that make him unique. He’s learning to not use autism as an excuse for anything but rather a unique quality he has,” said DePerro.

The Alternative Baseball Organization is already up and running across the southern United States. In order for it to come to Tacoma, Vincent and his dad need more players and volunteers to coach and umpire. If you’d like to help, head to http://www.alternativebaseball.org

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