Freeze and Marshall County Central freshman David Schoon, 16, has been playing baseball since he could walk. His mom Sheri was playing baseball with him in the yard when he was younger, but she doesn’t do that anymore.
“One day he really got a good hit and he hit me in the eye with the ball… gave me the concussion. And I’ve had a little PTSD since then. I haven’t been able to pitch to him since,” Sheri said with a laugh. “But it was a good hit. It was a really good hit.”
That’s okay because he has found plenty of teammates and opponents to pitch to him.
Joining the Freeze Baseball program officially as a seventh grader, but playing summer-rec baseball before then, David has found a game he loves and has provided a particular energy to the Freeze Baseball program. He continues to pursue this love all while working through the obstacles of Koolen-de Vries syndrome (KDVS).
Playing mostly outfield, David enjoys all parts of baseball, including the hitting and throwing, but he also enjoys just being with the guys.
Several of those guys, his teammates Parker Nelson and Carter Hoverson, both explained how David brings a positive energy.
“He’s like a little hype man. He always backs up everybody and he’s just a joy to have on the team,” Nelson said. “When people are feeling down about a bad inning, he’s right there to bring us back up. He’s just fun to have.”
Hoverson mentioned how he brings “good vibes” to the team.
“He keeps our heads up. (When) we make a mistake, he’d say, ‘Hey, you’ll get them next time,’” Hoverson said. “He just brings a bunch of joy to us and we love that.”
One of his teachers, Marshall County Central Special Education teacher Tom Maki and David’s coaches, Varsity Head Coach Shawn Donarski and Junior Varsity/Junior High Coach Travis Smith would agree with these players’ assessments of David.
Maki has taught David and, as a football coach, watched him in action this year as a football manager. Maki explained how David just brings energy and spirit.
“He is one of those kids that just thoroughly enjoys life,” Maki said, “and wants to bring happiness to others.”
Coach Donarski explained how David brings that positive energy to his teammates.
“He’s a bundle of positive energy,” Coach Donarski said. “He never has a negative comment to say to anybody.”
Coach Smith joined the Freeze program this year as part of Grygla’s newly formed co-op with the Freeze program. The first person he met on the Freeze baseball program was David.
“Since that day, David has went out of his way to make sure myself and the Grygla kids have felt a part of this team from day 1,” Coach Smith said via email, “and we are grateful for that.”
Coach Smith has found David to be a strong teammate both in the dugout and on the field.
“He is one of the first ones to congratulate a teammate and one of the first one(s) to pick them up when a game or practice isn’t going as planned,” Coach Smith said via email. “His humor and fun attitude is always well timed to keep the dugout and field light and loose.”
When Sheri went to David’s game in Red Lake Falls, she had watched David reach first base and his teammates began to urge each other on to drive David home. Seeing scenes such as this means so much to Sheri.
“Where so many special needs kids can get bullied and things like that… I don’t see that at all with him. It’s the exact opposite,” Sheri said. “Everybody’s sticking up for him (and) making sure he doesn’t get bullied. And they include him and they’re helping him along.”
David didn’t reach home this time around in Red Lake Falls. When David is on the diamond though, he brings the effort and a level of respect.
“He’s always hustling. He does what is asked of him (and) never complains about anything,” Coach Donarski said. “He’s a great kid to have on our team and I’m very glad that he is on our team.”
Coach Smith explained how David comes prepared to play the game.
“As soon as he shows up to the ballpark,” Coach Smith said via email, “he is ready to play any position he may be called upon for that particular day.”
Sheri enjoys watching her son give this effort to a game he loves.
“He gives it his all every time he’s up there. It doesn’t matter what’s going on,” Sheri said. “He’s just like, ‘Mom, I got to do it. It’s time… We just got to go.’”
He’s able to put in this effort after having to overcome some obstacles in his life. According to medlineplus.gov, the genetic condition he has, KDVS, includes “developmental delay and mild to moderate intellectual disability” and “weak muscle tone (hypotonia) in childhood.”
His mom explained how he has weak muscle tone everywhere, making it more difficult for him to grasp things or lift a bat. He didn’t crawl until much later in life, didn’t walk until he was almost two years old, and didn’t talk until he was four. He has been doing speech, occupational, and physical therapy continuously since he was 11 months old.
“It’s harder for him to do everything that everyone else is doing. It’s taken his entire life of therapy just to get him to be able to walk, to ride a bike, to do all the things that he’s doing,” Sheri said. “And baseball is actually one of the things they’ve been doing in therapy.”
In therapy, he puts on his glove and stretches his hand to catch the ball and he does hand-eye coordination and strength activities with a bat.
“As a mom with a kid with special needs, any little achievement is hugely celebrated,” Sheri said.
He does equine or horse therapy at Blazin Saddles in rural Newfolden. There, he rides on the horses and does different activities with them, developing a bond with them in the process.
As for baseball, besides the physical benefits, it’s also providing him with psychological benefits.
“It’s allowing him to kind of be him… with the freedom to be silly, to laugh, to joke, to get out there to exercise, to have fun,” Maki said. “I know when he gets a hit, he gets all pumped up and tries to get the guys pumped up. And they’re all cheering him on and the other team often times does too.”
When asked about what David is teaching or showing others on the baseball diamond, Carter Hoverson pointed to that positivity.
“(He’s teaching others how to) respect one another,” Hoverson said, “just keep your teammates heads up (and) talk good about them.”
He also is teaching another lesson, Parker Nelson said, one David learned from WWE wrestler John Cena: “Not to give up.”
David loves baseball and the game loves him back, delivering him both physical and psychological benefits since he could walk. All the while, he is bringing positivity to the Freeze Baseball program and joy to the baseball diamond. The Freeze coaches and players are happy to have him there, always looking to help drive him across home plate.
Maki said, “It’s a win-win with him playing baseball.”
To see the complete story, read the May 6 issue of the North Star News in print or online.