Jordan Gray got a chance Monday to do what other 8-year-old kids could only dream of: throw out the first pitch at a Mets game.
A Queens Village boy who attends the Developmental Disabilities Institute school in Huntington, L.I., Jordan is autistic and was selected for the honor by Emblem Health as part of Autism Awareness Week.
Decked out in a David Wright jersey just hours before he was to deliver the first pitch at the Mets-Nationals game at Citi Field, Jordan said he hoped he could meet Wright, his baseball idol, at the stadium.
“He’s the greatest player in the world,” said Jordan, a diehard Mets fan who practiced throwing 15 to 20 pitches a day for the big moment.
Jordan got his wish and Wright signed his jersey.
“It’s really nice. He was so excited,” said Jordan’s father, William Gray. “He threw a strike right into the catcher’s mitt and the place erupted in cheers.”
Gray said he hoped the experience would help his shy son grow.
“It will be so helpful in his development just being there,” he said, including dealing with thousands of loud fans and having all eyes on him when he throws the ceremonial first pitch. “No matter what he does, it will be exciting for him and something to look back on.”
Jordan is a high-functioning autistic child and can do things independently, including homework, reading a book, dressing himself and following instructions.
“Hopefully, later on in life as he grows he’ll be able to go to college, get his own apartment, cook his own food,” Gray said.
Claudia Gray, Jordan’s mother, said Jordan’s appearance at Citi Field would bring more visibility to a disorder whose cause is not known.
“From this, people will be more aware and have more sensitivity to children and families with autism,” she said.
Jordan’s parents said they became worried when their son was 2 1/2 and could not remember his ABCs and 1-2-3s. A doctor performed an MRI, which came back fine, and a hearing test showed no problems with his ears.
At 3 1/2, Jordan missed some important milestones at that age and had a low vocabulary. He was diagnosed as being autistic at 4.
A year later, his parents sent him to the institute, known as DDI, and he has improved.
“DDI has been outstanding as far as his learning process,” his father said, noting Jordan has become more independent and engages more in socialization.
Besides watching the Mets and rooting for his favorite player, Jordan plays Little League Baseball at the Cross Island YMCA in Bellerose and takes swimming and piano lessons.
Claudia Gray said her son’s diagnosis changed what she expects from Jordan.
“When you find out all your dreams and expectations for your child changes, you change your expectations,” she said. “Your ‘a-ha moment’ changes and this is our ‘a-ha’ moment.”
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2010 Community News Group
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