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Beyond the Game: Baseball team bonds with autistic student manager

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A high school baseball team's relationship with its student manager goes Beyond the Game.

Jonah Bernard, a junior at Sylvan Hills High School, was diagnosed with a form of autism when he was 12. He loves baseball, so he was one of 70 kids to try out for the Bears' team. When it was apparent to Head Coach Denny Tipton he wasn't going to make it, Tipton came up with another way to get him involved.

"We had our tryouts and I talked to him and I talked to his mom before and said, 'hey, there might not be a way for him to make it as far as on the team, as far as playing. But would he want to be a part as a manager?'

"He jumped, he got a huge, big smile and said, 'I'd love it.'"

Jonah has many duties as team manager, like prepping the dugout and field, as well as retrieving foul balls.

This seemingly small gesture has made a meaningful impact. Typically, he has difficulty with social interaction. Over the course of the season, however, they've watched him grow.

"He's opened up more and more," Tipton said. "At first, he'd be standing on the dugout, maybe by the edge. But now, he's just right there in the middle of them."

"It makes me happy, a lot. A whole lot," said Naomi Givens, Jonah's mom.

The team has clearly changed Jonah, though not nearly as much as Jonah has changed the team.

"I think if anything, it's opened their eyes," Tipton said. "Here goes a young man who might not have the same ability that I do, but loves this game just like I do."

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