Austin Babinsack plays soccer for Highlands High School in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania.
He also has autism. Last week was marked by a deeply painful event for the teen. After a woman heard cries for help and went to investigate, she found Austin duct-taped to a goal post — an act allegedly carried out by his teammates, WPXI-TV in Pittsburgh reported.
Police were called; it was a mess. “He was bawling," his mother Kristie Babinsack told the station. "He was terrified."
Justin Miller, the school district's health and physical education director, heard about the what happened to Austin and decided to phone up the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, a pro team with the United Soccer League. Not long after that Austin found himself getting picked up at his home in a limo and taken to the Legends of Pittsburgh Athletic Complex to meet up with some of the Riverhounds in person — and of course, play soccer.
Think Austin scored a goal or two against the big boys? You bet he did. “It feels really nice,” he told WPXI.
And not only did he get to kick the soccer ball a bit with his favorite pro players, Austin also got to pose for photos with them and got an autographed jersey and other items.
“You should be able to rely on your teammates. That’s a part of the game. When you hear about things like this, it’s sad," Riverhounds goalie Hunter Gilstrap told the station. "We’re trying to make it a really positive experience."
The high school team's coach was placed on leave, WPXI said, adding that Austin also endured bullying and hazing. The coach's attorney told the station his client "had absolutely no involvement in the incident, was not present when it happened and first learned of the allegations about the students after the fact."