I forgot about Teddy Kremer until yesterday when I read a great article by Paul Daugherty in Sports Illustrated entitled "Reds Batboy with Down Syndrome a Great Story, But it Shouldn't End". Link: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/mlb/news/20130423/teddy-kremer/ Daugherty acknowledges feel good stories are easy to write and an integral part of baseball lore. ESPN has taken interest in Kramer as has the Speaker of the House John Boehner. Kremer already had some familiarity with the Reds. He served as batboy in August 2012 (his parents won a silent auction at a fund raiser and paid $300). According to Daugherty, Kremer has been batboy twice. The publicity has been uniformly positive. Again, this is where 99% of stories end--especially in sport reporting. But not this time. Daugherty argues that "its time to do better. Kremer's story can't end here. Worse, it can't continue the same as now, with Kremer the 30 year old man making cameos racking Reds bats, whenever the sentiment strikes. The mascoting of Teddy has to end before it stops being wonderful and becomes something far less. These stories have to become more nuanced as our society has become more attuned with the lives of our citizens with disabilities. There is a subtle bend in the road, where good and right run head on into patronizing and exploitive. That curve hasn't been reached. But its just up there in the near distance. The next time Kremer is at Great American Ball Park it should be as an employee of the team".
When I read the above I almost fell out out of my wheelchair. I read that passage again and again. Sports Illustrated bemoaning feel good stories? Sports Illustrated calling for a more nuanced understanding of disability? I am stunned. Reds chief operating officer Phil Castellini is quoted as stating Kramer is "incredibly capable. He could do all kinds of stuff. I could put him in customer service any where in the building and he'd continue to put smiles on people's faces". Teddy Kremer's mother notes that her son has worked a few part time jobs and employment with the Reds would be a huge boost to his self esteem. She also soberly notes he would need to learn how to use the mass transit system.
The above is a radical departure from your typical story about disability. I have been energized by the fact this story appeared in a staid publication such as Sports Illustrated. This is about as mainstream as one can get. Buzzed on too much tea this morning I started dreaming big. The Reds could hire Kramer and many other capable men and women who have Down Syndrome. They could foster a relationship with the Down Syndrome community and become not just an employer but powerful advocate for people with Down Syndrome. I can dream bigger! Major League Baseball could become the spearhead for a work program for people with a host of disabilities. MLB could encourage (require) all teams to hire people with a disability. One could even make the case that every team employ a certain percentage of people with a disability. This could be marketed as the next great social revolution in baseball history. The effort could be tied to Jackie Robinson's legacy as the first black man to break the color line. Label this jobs program something catchy like "42's Legacy" and build the infrastructure for a jobs program. Just think of the exposure. Tens of millions of people who attend baseball games would encounter people with disabilities who are employed. This could truly revolutionize people's perception of disability. If Americans understand anything it is baseball and work. Wow, I am dreaming big today!