MLB slugger Matt Olson joins childhood friend to create autism help center

Major League baseball star Matt Olson is having a marquee season on the diamond, but the Atlanta Braves slugger is about more than just home runs.

Olson is a close friend of Reece Blankenship, who has non-verbal autism. While Reese doesn't speak, their quiet bond began when he was in high school.

“Reece’s older sister Darren and I were the same grade in middle school and hung out in the same friend group and a lot of the times would be over at their house,” says Olson. “So that’s when I first met Reece and would be able to be around him a little bit. And my older brother started working with Reece, and I ended up following my brother doing that.”

As Olson’s career flourished, so did his friendship with Reece. Neither Matt nor the Blankenship family realized how much Reece understood.

“Some of the things that Reece will do, his body will do, he doesn’t necessarily have control of it," says Olson. “[But] once you become a little comfortable around it, you look past that stuff, and you start digging deeper into who the person is.”

As Olson rose to stardom, Reece became one of his biggest fans, without the ability to say so. Then, as his 20th birthday approached, Reece stunned his friends and the Blankenship family during a visit to a communication workshop.

Watch the video below to see how Reece became a hero to a Major League Baseball star

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Watch how MLB star helps friend with autism open wellness center