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Erickson shines in 11AA game

Ryan Erickson played right field for most of the game. He fielded the only ball hit at him.1 / 2
The 11AA Hudson Storm includes, front from left, Brett Covey, Jacob Caron, Cameron Gross and Arthur Castro; back, Connor O'Brien, Charlie Dostal, Jacob Mathes, Tyler Auge, Jack Walters, David Miller and Ryan Erickson. Not Pictured, Tristin Lines.2 / 2

Ryan Erickson cracked a single in between the short stop and third baseman to lead off the Hudson Storm's Gopher State 11AA league game against Mahtomedi. Everyone in the crowd cheered, from both sides.

Ryan, a sixth-grader entering the middle school in the fall, has Down's Syndrome and plays in the Booster's Challenger League on Sunday nights.

Storm coach Travis Gross and his son Cameron have watched Ryan's games a few times. Ryan is in Cameron's grade. While watching Erickson, Gross got the idea to have him play a game with the Storm.

"As I'm watching, (Ryan) is like dialed in," said Gross, "He hits and fields well. You can tell he knows what he's doing."

"I thought it would be great for him to get into a game with us."

Gross talked to Ryan's parents, Butch and Susan, and set it up to have Ryan play with the team for their June 26 battle with the Mahtomedi Zephyrs.

On the day of the game, Gross collaborated with the opposing coach and they held a simulated half inning to start the game. Ryan led off that inning with a bang.

"He smacked it in between third and shortstop," said Gross, "it was a legitimate hit."

After Ryan reached first safely, the team bunted him around the bases and he came home to score a run.

When the simulated inning was finished, the game began. Gross put Ryan out in right field, which he said is his favorite position. He got a ball hit toward him, which he chased down and fielded cleanly. The original plan was to have him play just the first inning in the field, but Gross said Ryan did so well everyone decided he should stay out there for most of the game.

Gross said Ryan was an exemplary teammate. He cheered the entire game and even helped out the umpire by calling balls and strikes from the dugout. During a team meeting, when the team was being "squirmy," Ryan yelled out "You guys be quiet, the coach is talking."

"It was hilarious," said Gross.

After the game, the team signed the game ball and awarded it to the player with the best performance which was Ryan. It was the ball he hit to start the game.

The team lost the game 16-8, but Ryan enjoyed the entire experience.

"It was awesome," he said, "(Coach Gross) is awesome."

"It was fun. It was a good night," said Gross.

Other than baseball, his favorite sport, Ryan likes basketball and football. He enjoys fishing and hunting with his dad, sleepovers, playing Wii, cars and listening to music.

He is a huge Packer fan, as shown by his favorite movie, a DVD copy of Green Bay's Super Bowl XLV victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Ryan also enjoys school; he said math, reading and science are his favorite subjects.

"He's a great kid," said Gross.