Brandon Martinez has always loved baseball. From the time he was little and held his first bat he was obsessed. Whenever he had a spare moment he would be in the backyard practicing.
His father, Robert Martinez, always marveled at his son’s devotion to the game. He thought he was a determined kid; one who knew what he wanted to do and by the time Brandon was walking the interest in baseball turned into an obsession.
At age 5 Brandon developed a speech impediment and at age 7 his baseball coach noticed he had a “twitch” on the field. He recommended his parents seek a doctor’s opinion and within a week they had a diagnosis of Tourette syndrome. They learned that obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) – causing his obsession with baseball – was an associated disorder.
He didn’t know what he didn’t know
Robert says his wife, Maria, handled the news better, while he was in denial, stating, “I was scared for what he would face in life.” He soon learned that they would need the help of their school system because what was a diagnosis turned into behavior issues associated with this diagnosis and disability. The school system was unsympathetic and rather passive and reactive. The administration thought they could control his behavior through punishment, yet an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) was never developed.
It wasn’t until Brandon was in high school that he had a solid IEP to deal with his disability. When asked what issues he would put at the top of a “Things I Wished I Had Known” list Robert said, “I wished I would have known what Brandon’s educational rights were, and what my rights as his parent and I wished I had studied what laws there were to protect our kids.”
Helping Brandon find his voice
“The symptoms nearly came on overnight and he was teased a lot. He was a depressed little boy,” Robert remembers. But because Brandon excelled at baseball, Robert and Maria encouraged him to use his love (and obsession) for the game as an escape as a coping skill. Each year he improved as an athlete and that drive is what helped get him chosen as the Dodger’s 7th round draft pick in 2009.
“Finding his niche was important to his success.” Robert said of his son. “I never let him use his disorder as a crutch.” The battle Brandon saw his parents fight for him helped him learn to never give up. They talked to him about his disorder and what tomorrow would bring and helped make sure he had a goal in life. They encouraged him to reach out to others – he played baseball with and read to other kids with disabilities – and in doing so, found his own voice. Overtime, he became his own advocate.
Says Robert proudly, “He started to speak up for himself and others because he saw me speak up for him.”
Telling their story
Robert wrote Born to Play to honor his son’s struggle and their battle for a “fair and appropriate education” for Brandon but also as a way to provide tools (including sample letters to school administrators and districts) and encouragement to other parents facing challenges with obtaining services for their children.
We have a signed copy of Robert’s book to give to one lucky winner! If you’d like a chance to win, make sure you’re registered and leave a comment here!
Julia’s note: The Martinez story has caught the eye of Hollywood! If you’d like to read more about the family or to purchase the book, visit their website!