Why We Do What We Do: A note from Stryker’s dad

Keeper of The Game has made a huge impact on Stryker’s life. The foundation has been able to tap into Stryker’s love for baseball and teach him life skills that have aided him in overcoming areas where he struggled.
Stryker was introduced to Keeper of the Game as a 6-year old back in 2015 – just one year after we found out he had Asperger Syndrome. Some areas that Stryker battled with were making eye contact, confidence, and anxiety. The first moment he went to Allie P. Stadium to meet Oklahoma State Assistant Coach James Vilade, Stryker was timid. It did not take long for Coach Vilade to find a way to connect with him. Coach Vilade played catch with him on the field and that was just the beginning of Stryker’s journey and growth.
Keeper of The Game provided season tickets for our family and Stryker was made to feel at home at the stadium. It was very important to Stryker that we arrived early and stayed after, so he could say hello to Coach Vilade. It only took a him a few games to muster up the courage to go down on the field and play catch without mom and dad.
Toward the end of the first season, Stryker found out that he was going to have the opportunity to throw out the first pitch of an Oklahoma State game. He practiced and practiced, but his anxiety began to build. The day of the game, we went down on the field early. Coach Vilade took him over to the team to participate in standing for the National Anthem. I watched as something clicked with Stryker and immediately he felt at home. He walked out to the pitcher’s mound as if he had done it every day. He threw out the first pitch and smiled as the entire place roared with cheers. With the help of Keeper of The Game and Coach Vilade, I watched as my timid child decided that he would not allow his anxiety to keep him from doing something he loved.
Over the past three years, I have watched Stryker make tremendous improvements with making eye contact and not allowing his anxiety to keep him from playing baseball. Keeper of The Game has had a profound impact on Stryker and our entire family. I truly believe that through the relationships that have been made, the constant support, and the mutual love for the game of baseball is what has contributed to Stryker’s confidence and personal growth.
Words cannot express the deep appreciation I have for Keeper of The Game and Coach Vilade for taking a genuine interest in Stryker and helping him realize that he is capable of doing great things in life on and off the baseball field.
~Jerad Warlick (Stryker’s Dad)