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How a Single Conversation Changed the Lives of a Bloomsburg University Baseball Player and a Little Boy With Autism

Austin Edgette is a senior outfielder for the Bloomsburg Huskies baseball team. Edgette is third in the PSAC East in hitting with a .495 average and the Huskies...

Austin Edgette is a senior outfielder for the Bloomsburg Huskies baseball team. Edgette is third in the PSAC East in hitting with a .495 average and the Huskies are on a roll with 26 wins this season.

Last summer while playing in North Carolina for the Fayetteville Swamp Dogs of the Coastal Plains League, Edgette spent a few minutes with 9-year-old Thomas James Skinner. That brief meeting would change both of their lives.

"Well, the mom pulled me aside after one of my games and she wanted to thank me! She wanted to thank me for giving her son recognition, and to me that is not anything deserving of a thank you, but she said that he gets excluded at school for his autism and I didn't even know that he had autism, and it was something so simple so little that when I went over and signed his hat, and talked to him, a little conversation with him before the game, very brief, and it went a long way for him, but it was a really cool experience to be able to do something so little that means so much to him," said Austin.

And what it meant to T.J. was a lasting friendship. Up to that point, he had only played buddy ball in Hope Mills, North Carolina a program designed for special needs children, but now T.J.'s baseball world is full of life meeting Austin who has his number -- 4 --and plays the same position -- center field.

"To have this platform that people look up to you, little kids they look up to you. If you could realize the impact that you have outside of a community, that something so little, saying hello to a kid, asking his name, what his favorite player is. You know something so little like finding a hat for him, it goes a very long way for him to help him feel included, something that he will probably never forget," said Austin.

The relationship Austin started with T.J. last summer continued into the winter time when Coach Collins sent T.J. some Christmas gifts. The team had a chance to meet T.J. earlier this spring when the baseball team made their annual trek down south, and T.J. who's already been here to Bloomsburg University for one of their baseball camps and he's enjoyed every minute of meeting the team.

"I think that he's almost part of our team right now. He's got 28 friends in our dugout right now, and he feels completely at home is a baseball uniform," said Mike Collins.

"For Coach Collins to do that go out of his way make a jersey for him it's something so big for TJ. I know that Kathleen the mom has sent me pictures of him smiling cheek to cheek. It means the absolute world to him," again said Austin.

Just this week, the Huskies moved into third place in the Baseball Writers Association Atlantic Region. Edgette ran his hitting streak to 17 games with his best friend T.J. Skinner cheering him on.

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