OPINION – Let’s face it: Last week was horrid.
Terror visited Boston and some nutjob sent threatening letters to a member of Congress and the President.
We’ve been down this road before.
There were remarkable moments of heroism, of course, that cannot and should not be ignored.
But, there were also all of those bad flashbacks to terrorism past and references to how, well, we are living in a post-9/11 world after all and should expect this sort of thing.
Not really. Not in a civilized world. There is no reason why we should expect or accept this sort of behavior because the minute we do, we forfeit our humanity.
That’s why in the midst of the darkness, there was some sunshine as we learned of the acts of kindness bestowed upon the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Still, I was looking for something more, something uplifting that was not a byproduct of violence and mayhem.
I found it in the world of sports.
Last week the Cincinnati Reds were playing a home game against the Florida Marlins.
Even though the season is still in its infancy, it is fairly clear these are two teams heading in opposite directions. The Reds are the elite of the National League’s Central Division, the Marlins at the bottom of the pile in the NL East.
But, as anybody who really follows sports understands, there is more to it all than stats, and won-loss records.
On this night, the Reds asked a gentleman named Ted Kremer to be their honorary batboy. Kremer is a 30-year-old with Down syndrome. He has, however, taken his place in the Cincinnati dugout before and become a favorite among the players.
On this night, he came into the clubhouse saying he wanted three things: Eleven runs, 11 strikeouts, and for Cincinnati third baseman Todd Frazier to hit a home run for him.
Now, just in case you aren’t a close follower of our National Pastime, 11 runs is a fairly high-scoring game. For a pitcher to get 11 strikeouts is a pretty big deal. And, hitting a home run? Well, it took Hank Aaron 23 seasons to hit 755 home runs. And, unlike the guy who surpassed his record by seven homers, he didn’t have to jack up his body with steroids to do it.
The Reds were cruising to an easy 9-1 win over the Marlins going into the bottom of the sixth inning when Frazier stepped up to the plate. By that time, the game was well in hand and it would have been easy for Frazier to go through the motions, right? Get the game over and just go home.
Except Frazier didn’t see it that way as he stepped into a fastball and cranked one deep over the fence in dead centerfield to put Cincinnati up 11-1.
Not as cool as the excitement and pure joy exhibited by Kremer as Frazier rounded the bases.
As the honorary batboy, it was his job to collect Frazier’s bat from the batter’s box. But, it didn’t quite happen that way as Kremer was so overjoyed he could no longer contain himself as he watched Frazier round the bases and started leaping about in the area near home plate.
Nobody in the stands understood why Kremer was so overjoyed, although they got caught up in the moment as well. Even the umpire smiled.
“He is so funny. He said, ‘come on man hit me a home run man, I love you.’ I said ‘I love you too. I’ll hit you one,'” Frazier told reporters after the game. “It was great how excited, that look, I started smiling before I even hit home plate.”
The excitement was so great that, well, the umpire had to walk the bat over to Kremer so he could put it back in the bat rack in the dugout, where the celebration continued.
Luckily, the moment was captured by an ESPN crew assigned to cover the event. The sports network shared the video with a number of outlets, including The Huffington Post, where you can see the whole thing at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/19/teddy-reds-batboy-cheers-_n_3114231.html.
Now, there’s more to the story.
You see, a local pizza joint had promised those at the game that if the Reds’ pitchers combined to strike out 11 or more Marlins, everyone in the house could trade in their ticket stub for a free pizza.
In the top of the seventh, pitcher J.J. Hoover fanned Chris Valaika, for Cincinnati’s 11th strikeout of the night “He kept saying, we’ve got to get 11,” Reds manager Dusty Baker said. “He loves that pizza.”
So, Ted Kremer went three-for-three.
For me, at least, it was one of those things that lifted the load, took some of the edge off the events of what had been a fairly rough week.
I mean, there’s not much joy in a heavily lopsided baseball game, even if you come out on the winning side.
Still, it was one of those human moments when the cosmos comes together and decides to do something nice for a change to interrupt the cycle of catastrophes — manmade or those inflicted by an angry Mother Nature — with a moment that reminds us how to smile, how to cling to that hope that we sometimes lose, and how pure joy can light up those around us.
I mean, those folks in the stands that night had no idea what Ted Kremer had requested. They didn’t have a clue as to why the batboy was so exuberant in his celebration of Frazier’s home run.
Still, as they watched him wait for Frazier at home plate, their applause grew in intensity as Kremer’s excitement inspired them.
And, for those who were at the game and those who saw the video, the shackles of sorrow were freed, if only for a moment.
We need all the moments like that we can muster, I think, to remind us that even in darkness, there is light, if only we open our eyes to it; that hope is a wonderful thing that can buoy us; that sometimes, good things do happen.
Thanks, Ted Kremer, for reminding us how to smile again.
And, remember, joy is contagious.
Pass it on.
No bad days!
Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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