baseball expert's students include autistic children
by felipe cabrera
derek aucoin grew up watching the expos as a child. he idolized players like steve rogers and andre dawson.
in july, he drove to cooperstown to see andre dawson inducted into the baseball hall of fame.
"when i was 10, i got to meet andre dawson," aucoin said. "that was what changed my life."
aucoin, 40, is currently director of player development for the baseball center nyc, which he co-founded 10 years ago. he coaches teams and works with young players. aucoin was born in 1970 in lachine, quebec. he is single and has been living in new york for 12 years. aucoin was a member of the 1988 canadian junior olympic baseball team. he was in the montreal expos' and the mets' systems for 10 seasons and played in two major league games.
there are hundreds of players on the waiting list to be on his leagues for 8 to 15 year olds, according to the center's website. his motto is "game ready," a phrase he asks his players to keep in mind both on and off the field. one of aucoin's main goals is to teach his players the skills and self-confidence that it takes to succeed in life.
"basically, the object of the business is to provide a safe environment where children can feel like they're appreciated," aucoin said. aucoin also runs camps and clinics through the center. yankee stars such as derek jeter, jorge posada and mariano rivera have each made appearances at his camps and clinics.
aucoin believes professional athletes can provide a positive influence in the lives of young people, especially underprivileged youths. something as minor as shaking hands with a major leaguer can provide the motivation that might eventually lead to achievement. aucoin is involved with a program through the major league baseball players association that allows kids to meet former players.
"i actually did one [program] in central park, which was awesome," aucoin said. "two hundred and fifty kids got to meet four former yankees."
aucoin has previously helped organize fundraisers for the mario lemieux foundation, the pat tillman foundation and helping hands. he also created a program for a group of 28 autistic children with the new york center for autism charter school.
"derek took on the challenge two years ago to provide a weekly baseball instruction program on-site at our school," moira cray, director of transitions and community outreach for the autism school, wrote in a testimonial letter. "he worked from a belief that everyone can benefit from learning to play baseball, and the program has been an unqualified success beyond our wildest hopes."
aucoin feels fortunate to still be involved with baseball.
"i'm just blessed to be able to do this," aucoin said. "what baseball gives me is this opportunity."