Home > In Their Own Words > Not Today: An Outsider in the Outfield

Not Today: An Outsider in the Outfield

John Scott Holman struggled with undiagnosed autism for nearly 25 years. His diagnosis has enabled him to embrace his individuality and move forward. He writes and speaks publicly about his life with autism, hoping to inspire greater understanding and acceptance. Visit his Facebook page here.

Sometimes I think my father is a bit autistic. His autistic tendencies are entirely too mild to warrant a diagnosis, but they are noticeable enough to irritate me, and I’m the genuine article! Like any certified aspie, my father’s entire world revolves around his special interest – baseball. I swear, that man has managed to turn every conversation of his adult life into a longwinded monologue about the great American past time…

“You know, Dad, I was reading about that AIDS epidemic in Africa…”

“Son, let me tell you something about AIDS. AIDS is a lot like professional baseball. You see, you don’t realize how physically taxing it is until you have experienced it yourself…”

Conversations like these make me more mindful of my own autistic behavior – I feel your pain, Mom! My obsessions are regarded as symptoms of a disorder, yet when my Dad carries on about baseball, no one thinks anything of it. What gives?!

The Holman family is a baseball dynasty. My father and uncle both played Major League Baseball and my kid brother is now enjoying minor league success. So what happened to me? Genetic research may or may not yield an explanation for my autism (my mother blames the enormous quantities of yogurt she consumed during her pregnancy). Either way, I’m not much of an athlete.

As a bouncy autistic kiddo, my father’s baseball career took me all across the country. Life moved with the urgency and lightning pace of an amphetamine bender. My mother carted me across the country, guided by the distant glow of stadium lights, chasing my father’s career to the next city, the next ball park, one more win, one more loss… Like wise men following a star, we hoped those lights would lead us to our salvation, or at least a place, any place, we might one day call home.

No wonder my father is still obsessed – baseball is a dream that never ends. Spectators are filled with admiration and nostalgia, as their heroes round the bases, chasing the dream all the way home.

Back then, I had no way of knowing that my life was unusual. I was simply along for the ride – I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I’d met few children outside of the insanity of professional sports. Didn’t all fathers wear crisp white uniforms and travel the country playing baseball for thousands of adoring fans? Didn’t all mothers frantically drag their children through airports and locker rooms?

My father recalls being interviewed for national television while standing on the field of the King Dome, struggling both to answer questions and prevent me from wiggling out of his arms. Cocky and playful as always, Ken Griffey Jr. sauntered up to us, snatching the microphone from the reporter. “So little buddy,” he said, grinning my way, “do you think the Mariners will win the game today?” He pushed the microphone into my face and awaited my response.

“Not today,” I sighed. “You won’t win today… so we should just go home.”

My poor father had no idea what to do with me. He often tried to persuade me to go out back and play a game of catch with him, but I was usually too busy watching “Fantasia” or “Alice in Wonderland” – Dad had good reason to suspect his five year-old boy was a homosexual pothead.

In elementary school, my father somehow managed to convince me to join a little league team. He came to regret it. I spent every game spinning around in the outfield, oblivious to the action in the infield. Balls often whizzed by me, thumping onto the grass, and rolling slowly towards my spinning body. “Scotty, you just lost us the game!”

“I did? Does that mean we can go home now?!”

I was no better at batting than I was in the outfield. I rarely swung the bat, and couldn’t seem to hang on to it when I did, hurling  it farther than most of my teammates could throw the ball. I may have hit a few nine year-old outfielders in the kneecaps. Once, and only once, I managed to get a hit. I heard a crack and watched the ball soar far into left field. Overjoyed, I turned and skipped back into the dugout… forgetting to run the bases.

When I was particularly uncooperative, my father would tell me that I was adopted from a pack of gypsies. “Akmed!” he would shout. “You do know your real name is Akmed Megelbgy, right? We changed it when we adopted you, but you’d better get used to Akmed again, ’cause I’m sending you straight back to those gypsies if you don’t let the cat out of the refrigerator!”

Was Dad right? Was I adopted from strange, rootless people? Sometimes I wonder… I’ve always felt out of step, and have spent my life searching for a place I might belong. I’ve searched among the privileged, the pious, the decadent, and the depraved. You know what I’ve discovered? We are all looking for the same thing.

Whether hunched over a keyboard writing humorous, self-deprecating blogs about autism, or sliding into home base, we are all searching for love and acceptance. My father now recognizes my passion as the same restless yearning that drove him to success. An electric urgency comes over him when he talks of baseball; he lights up from the inside. This is especially true when he speaks of his minor league career.

Scholarly and uncoordinated as I am, I connect with his stories of traveling the country in a bus crammed with excited and terrified kids, all of them united by a burning hunger to prove themselves.  His voice quivers with excitement when he tells these stories, and I know that I was not adopted from gypsies. I am truly my father’s son… we share the same passion.

We all want to earn our place in the sun – we all want to be valued. However, I’ve learned that you cannot buy your way home. Your true family does not need to be impressed; they love you for who you are, not who you once were or who you may one day be.

I was certainly not the son my father envisioned, and I’m sure a part of him mourned the loss of his dream child, but he never made me feel like a disappointment. He may not have understood me, but he embraced me nevertheless.

Dad still hasn’t figured me out, but that’s alright – he loves me. Occasionally, he will try to make sense of my behavior, but I’m quick to remind him that the effort is unnecessary. “You know son, autism is a lot like professional baseball…”

“Not today, Dad… Not today…”

“In Their Own Words” is a series within the Autism Speaks blog which shares the voices of people who have autism, as well as their loved ones. If you have a story you wish to share about your personal experience with autism, please send it to editors@autismspeaks.org. Autism Speaks reserves the right to edit contributions for space, style and content. Because of the volume of submissions, not all can be published on the site.

  1. Oma
    October 11, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    John, you have such a wonderful gift. What a terrific article! Thanks for sharing this and for helping is all to understand. I am passing your blogs on to people in my life who will benefit from them. I already received great reactions to “I want my money back…” Please keep writing!

  2. October 11, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    Yes John, I think you are right about your father. My Dad had very formal education had to start work at the age of 13 or 14. He was always considered rather eccentric, but, also, he was well-read and people used to say he was very clever. He had a fantastic memory for facts and figures.

    My son is autistic, so I think he inherited some genes from his grandfather.

  3. John Scott Holman
    October 11, 2011 at 3:39 pm

    Hey, visit my Facebook page for links to my other articles about autism…

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/John-Scott-Holman/267958723228267?ref=ts

  4. Sue Rodgers
    October 11, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    This made me laugh. Thank you John. You have a gift with words on a page. Must be like baseball, somehow. hahaha. Our 20 year old son has Aspergers and he is not athletic. We wanted him to try something athletic though and had him play one season of flag football on a non-competitive (if there is such a thing) community football league. He mostly stood on the grass, watching the other 11 year old boys run by him. He did his best. He is still trying to find his place in this world. He knows it’s not football. Thanks for your thoughts.

  5. Johan
    October 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Thank you John what a wonderful article. This is the first article we read from you and now we are really curious about the others. As parents of a newly diagnosed two year old autistic boy, searching for info we stumbled upon your page. You lit up our day by making us laugh and you truly touched us with your article, especially the part about parental love. You truly are gifted, keep writing!
    Regards from Iceland

    • Mira
      November 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm

      I have seen a lot of replies to this about poor motor skills and not doing well at sports. Just as an encouragement I want to say that my aspie son tried soccer, but would stand around on the field, and run right off the field to the playground. However, we discovered it was the social, work as a unit, team thing he didn’t do, not actually a lack or coordination. He’s awesome at karate and gymnastics. Maybe try individual “sports.” I am lousy at team sports, and don’t even like them, but swim team was a fit for me.

  6. Grant
    October 11, 2011 at 6:54 pm

    I am father of an autistic son your story just puts a smile on my face thank you so much

  7. kevin
    October 11, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    good story u know basbeball is like stfu dad enough about baseball lol good story

  8. October 11, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    i’m glad u can see the asperger’s n ur dad’s way of relating- since u have reason to know how it feels – give ur dad a break – i’m guessing no one did when he was little bcause mosr people didn’t know (or care) what made children of that generation tick. i have a 14 yr. old grandson with asperger’s & his 7 yr. old brother has the autism n-o-s..i remember when the older one was just starting to talk – we went on a road trip 2 branson mo. to shop. he kept looking out his window w upraised face & clearly saying “bus”. i was puzzled, but he lived n the country & when we drove n2 the driveway & i was taking him out he threw back his head & insisted joyfully, while pointing upward – “bus!” i followed his finger & finally made the connection. by the driveway close 2 the house was a huge tree w gorgeous fall leaves. immediately i made the connection – he couldn’t say “yellow” yet but he made the color connection by saying ” bus”. awesome. his younger brother was at school this year & they went around the group asking “what do u like 2 do?” most answers were something like “play video games” & he annonced “I want to do MATH!” Very encouraging.i predict my other daughter’s son will perhaps be touched by autism or hyperactivity – he played soccer last summer although he was a little younger than regulation 4 the beginners – & spent most of the time running staring at the big sky full of clouds which made him very excited. when i was last n college the library had the most wonderful book of amazing people who were well – known writers, artists, poets etc. & r believed to have had some degree of autism. was called “The Creative Fires”. i’m glad u understand & co – operate w ur dad’s asperger’s – u r a wonderful person to b aware of his condition & understand him better bcause of it. ty 4 letting me visit w u – u r very perceptive. ty. Jemma Jenkins

  9. October 11, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    I have 2 daughter’s who are PDD-NOS. They are who they are and they are happy within what there conception of what life. I hate when someone thinks they should be doing something or be more social. But as long as theyy are happy I am too. My brother has a son with autism and so does my cousin….so yes. I believe it’s in the genes

    • October 22, 2011 at 12:35 pm

      i believe my daughter should be more social so she doesn’t throw meltdowns with people she doesn’t know. my daughter has thrived being in social settings such as school and family functions. her verbology(sp?) has grown since she started going to school back in april, and she loves going to school.

  10. Lisa Ann Tijerina
    October 11, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I suppose we all have a little bit of autism. How can we not? This is not bad-it is a gift. Thank you for sharing.

  11. John Scott Holman
    October 11, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    If anyone is interested, here is a link to my Dad’s website…

    http://www.brianholmanbaseball.com/

    He has been speaking publicly much longer than me. Guess what he likes to speak about? Here is a hint… it isn’t the AIDS epidemic in Africa.

  12. amanda
    October 11, 2011 at 8:18 pm

    I have spent the last two and a half years of my sons existence buying bats balls gloves lol. Baseball is his obsession…..this blog made me smile in more than one way. Thank you for sharing.

  13. Peter Sinclair
    October 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm

    Thanks. Very funny.

    My 2 year old son has autism, and he and I have a lot in common. Wonderful to read this article, and have a hope that my son might someday be as articulate as you.

  14. Kristen W.
    October 11, 2011 at 8:54 pm

    What a terrific writer you are! You have found your voice if not your “place”. I am inspired by reading this as I have twin 6-year-old sons with autism. I think the key is what you said about how your dad has always loved you unconditionally. God blessed us with beautiful children, as your parents were also blessed with you, and we were meant to love them no matter what. Love will get you a lot farther than professional baseball in the long run anyway!!

  15. October 11, 2011 at 9:15 pm

    Dear John

    i can’t get enough of your stories, i simply love to read them and i can relate to them. Like i told you in my last reply i have a 5 year old autistic son as well and wonder sometimes where it comes from. Fact is, that no one in my Family, neither in my Husbands Family was diagnosed with autism prior to my son. I tried to figure him out, but i gave up. There is nothing to figure out, that boy just simply says what comes to his mind and i believe autistic children speak the truth we sometimes don’t wanna hear. Any way you mentioned your Dad in your article how he relates everything to baseball. That reminds me somehow a lot of my own Husband. He relates everything to Football and his music. Between him and my autistic son and not to forget i have another son of 4 years who loves to talk non stop and is very bright, i think sometimes too, that i go crazy. But i love them to death. We are happy, even if we are not perfect, but that makes it the most fun. Where would we be, if we all would be perfect. I couldn’t imagine a monoton world, could you?

    I hope to read a lot more from you soon and i hope you have fun in San Fransisco.

    anja

  16. Adam Vogel
    October 11, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    Great blog. I remember playing Little League, American Legion, and varsity baseball in high school. Just like yourself, I had terrible motor skills, even though it has nothing to do with being dianosed with autism. I remember trying my damnest in sports whether it was basketball or baseball, but for the vast majority of people it never panned out. It’s frustrating when your a bench-warmer and playing on some lousy teams like I did in high school.

  17. October 11, 2011 at 9:49 pm

    I’m still laughing! I have a 4 year old with HF Autism, and he can be a pain in the a$$, but funny as all get out! I just hope he grows up and finds what he loves as you obviously have. Thank you for sharing your gift in your own words! :)

  18. mary
    October 11, 2011 at 10:33 pm

    My son has autism some say high functioning. However he hasn’t near the communication skills and creativity you have. I got lost in your story. Be proud. Be patient with your Dad. He loves you.

  19. JudgeRoy
    October 12, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    “Not today.” That is priceless. Another great blog.

    In Australia we played T-ball at school and I would always stare at the clouds, my glove, the glares of my fellow team mates.

    Soccer was worse. The opposing team would always mock me because I was always made captain and I’d be like, “OK, see you tomorrow.” I had poor coordination too and couldn’t keep up with the rules. I was also the only child there that wore an orange shirt.

  20. brenda
    October 12, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Hey Scotty I always love reading your post. I read this one to John, he laughed then said i like dougnuts again lol.

  21. Denise
    October 14, 2011 at 11:41 am

    Loved your article and the humor with which you write!! I spent several years working with students with autism and therefore had the opportunity to experience the “child within”. So many amazing qualities that not all people get to see! Thanks for sharing your experiences in such a creative, humorous way! I have such very fond memories of my students!!

  22. Vicky Strnage
    October 14, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Grand article! I am a huge baseball fan and parent of Asperger’s son. You have an enormous talent in writing. Please keep more articles coming. Your dad’s website is great as well.

  23. Merry Barua
    October 14, 2011 at 1:29 pm

    cant wipe the smile off my face!
    thank you

  24. Yazmin Galindo
    October 14, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    I have a handsome 8 year old newphew with PDD-NOS. He had his first soccer game last weekend and well…he tried. He likes playing one on one but gets a little frustrated if its a big group. He is very good with computers and video games though. I really enjoyed this article! Thank you so much for sharing and please keep blogging :)

  25. Monica
    October 14, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Thank you for this fantastic article John. I’m a big fan of yours already. I hope you keep blogging too! Your writing is a breath of fresh air and makes me Smile!

  26. October 14, 2011 at 9:35 pm

    Hey Scotty, really loved the article son!!! What a blessing you are to me. You are more gifted at your writing than I ever was at throwing a baseball. You know Scotty, wrting blogs is a lot like playing a baseball game…………………… Haha JK Love ya buddy, Dad

  27. October 14, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    Hey Scotty, really loved the article son!!! What a blessing you are to me. You are more gifted at your writing than I ever was at throwing a baseball. You know Scotty, writing blogs is a lot like playing a baseball game…………………… Haha JK Love ya buddy, Dad

  28. Kevin Holman
    October 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm

    GREAT JOB “Scotty”,

    I don’t think it was your moms yogurt, but the sprinkles she put on it….. lol

    Seriously though, this was a really great article. Keep up the great work.

    Love, Kevin

  29. October 22, 2011 at 12:32 pm

    unfortunately, i believe i’m sure what caused my daughter’s autism and it is genetic. on my side of the family we have the fragile x gene, most of us are carriers but it mutated into some of my cousins and niece and nephew and into some of my mom’s cousins. my daughter’s fragile x gene is weird, half of her gene is fully mutated and the other half is carrier status-the genetic counsilor told me that was very unusual and she’s never seen that before. she also has a very teeny tiny deletion on her 2d pair of her 3d chromosome. john, go to stimcity.org and read some of that mom’s blogs. her daughter has autism among other things and it’s from the mom’s view. she’s writes about what’s going on in the family’s life as well as her struggles to get the help for her daughter that she needs. i think you guys could benefit from each other.

  30. October 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm

    This was a delight to read.

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