For The Love Of The Game

Two very different Park Hill South students share a love for America’s pastime

NICK HOCHSTATTER Citizen Student Staff Writer

Some people find their happiness in movies, music, or spending time with friends. For Park Hill South High School special education student, Eric Kolich, his joy is found in baseball. Kolich was diagnosed with autism at the age of three and is currently a sophomore at South. He has had an interest in baseball his whole life, and thanks to a fellow South student with an identical passion for baseball, Kolich was able to fulfill a fantasy. Park Hill South senior Scott Cline, a member of the Panthers’ varsity baseball team, is involved in many clubs and organizations around South, but none have quite the impact as the work he does as a peer model. Peer models spend time each day working with special needs students in their classrooms. Cline spent a lot of time in the classroom with Kolich and quickly found a shared interest. “Every time Eric got a chance in class, he wanted to play catch with a baseball,” Cline said. Cline then talked to his coaches and South’s athletic director to see if it was possible for Kolich to throw out the first pitch at one of their next games. On April 1, South played at home against Truman. Before the game, the first two pitches were thrown by Kolich. He cleared the plate both attempts, recording one ball and one strike. South won the game 5-4. “It was a thrill to watch him participate with the typical guys,” said Donald Kolich, Eric’s father. “I think it meant a lot to him to participate in something with the normal guys, even if it was just for a few moments.” Kolich attended the baseball game along with his 14-year-old daughter, Rachel. “It meant a lot to us to see how excited he was just to be a part of the team,” South assistant baseball coach Russ McDaniels said. “I think it is neat anytime you have a student like Eric that is able to have that opportunity that he normally wouldn’t have.” South students have historically taken great pride in the members of their student body with special needs. They include them in every aspect possible, they make them feel like they’re a big part of the school, and South rallies behind them as a program - whether it is a homecoming queen, Special Olympics, or baseball. “It really affected me, and I believe others, in a really positive way to witness the excitement Eric was experiencing right before we went out and played,” Cline said. Despite their differences, whether they be big or small, South makes a point to support the happiness of all students in the special education program, and Eric was no different. Even if all it takes is throwing a baseball.