MIAMI – A South Florida autistic teen has been granted the right the play baseball for a local high school after suddenly being banned by the Florida High School Athletic Association.
"Hi, my name is Andre Guardarrama. I am a 17-year-old with autism. Florida High School Athletic Association, let me play," Andre said in a Facebook video.
Andre told Local 10 News that the FHSAA allowed him to play last year, but then suddenly changed their minds.
"Last year, I feel like it was good but the bad news is for this year they won't let me and I don't know why," he said.
Andre attends School House Academy, an alternative school, but they don't have a team so he tried out for Miami Christian School and made the team. But bylaws wouldn't allow it, so Andre testified before the FHSAA board and received a hardship waiver to play based on his special needs.
"He has had to work harder than anybody else on that team since he was 5 years old because he has had to prove that the kid with autism can play the game," his mother, Cary Alvarez, said.
This season, the FHSAA withdrew the waiver without giving the teen a reason.
"Is it because he is autistic?" the teen's father, Fabian Guardarrama, said. "Sometimes I feel -- and I hate to say this -- but that they are holding him back because he is autistic."
For Andre, this isn't just a game. It means so much more. In fact, when he takes the mound with his team, you could say that this is Andre's field of dreams.
The game has done wonders for Andre’s social skills but sadly Andre thinks he may have done something wrong.
"I was disappointed. I disappointed them because they won't let me play. I was very mad. I just want to play," Andre said.
Andre's struggle has gone viral. Even Major League Baseball’s Kansas City Royals voiced their support for him.
"It feels sad," Andre said.
"Do you feel like you are being singled out?" Local 10 News reporter Todd Tongen asked.
"I think, maybe," he said.
But Andre and his family said they were determined to get him back on the mound.
"Baseball is life and it is a lot of fun," Andre said.
On Friday, Andre received a letter from the association informing him that they had once again changed their minds and he would be allowed to return to the field until his scheduled due process hearing.
When Andre's parents told him he can play baseball again on the team he simply said, "Thank God."