The Cincinnati Reds have been forever changed by Teddy Kremer, the best bat boy they will ever meet. It might not have worked out that way if Kremer’s parents had followed the gentle advice of the doctor who told them they had given birth to a son with Down Syndrome.
Children born with an extra copy of chromosome 21, or some extra chromosome 21 genes, experience a range of issues, from developmental delays to health problems that may include leukemia, heart defects, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease or gastro-intestinal problems. Walking and speech come slower. Adult independence comes later, if at all.
When Teddy Kremer was born January 8, 1983, a hospital geneticist told his parents he would have an IQ between 20 and 40. He would not be potty trained until he was 6, if they were lucky. He might never walk or talk. Institutionalization might be the best option.
For the Kremers, that was never an option. They loved their child and were determined to do everything they could to give him the best life possible. With their encouragement and Kremer’s own sunny personality, he found a place of belonging in high school sports. The popular student was even prom king runner-up.
Early on he was a Cincinnati Reds enthusiast. In 2012 his parents had a chance to bid on something special for his 30th birthday, a shot at being honorary bat boy. Teddy Kremer was thrilled. On August 17, 2012, he walked into the stadium accompanied by his parents’ worried suggestions: no touching or talking to the players. Let them initiate anything.
The advice was no match for Kremer’s natural ebullience. His excitement was contagious. The team was transformed by his joy. A photograph of him at the game gained so much media attention he and his family were invited to be present at the next State of the Union address.
In April 2013 the Reds invited Kremer back to the dugout. In the second inning one of Kremer’s heroes, Todd Frazier, struck out. Kremer gave him a pep talk before he went up again, in the bottom of the sixth.
“Hit a home run, buddy,” he told Frazier.
“You’ve got it,” replied Frazier.
When Frazier did, Kremer exploded with joy. So did the team. So did the stadium.
Now Kremer works in the Reds’ fan accommodation office. That moves the story beyond the realm of feel-good news. The team recognized this young man’s skill as a good-will ambassador for the team and put him to work.
That gives me hope. Teddy Kremer is an exceptional young man. His vibrant personality makes everyone around him feel taller. He is an ambassador for those who challenge us to re-think our narrow definition of norms and open ourselves to the glorious diversity of human experience.
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