CINCINNATI — The Boston Red Sox had Teddy Ballgame (Ted Williams) hitting home runs for them and the Cincinnati Reds have Teddy Kremer asking for home runs.
And he is getting them.
Last year Kremer was batboy for a day for the Reds and asked for a few home runs and the Reds gave him seven.
He was back Thursday night for a game with the Miami Marlins, again asking for home runs and when he asked Todd Frazier to hit one for him, Frazier drilled one over the right-center field wall to ignite an 11-1 victory.
Teddy reacted with unbridled glee. He raced to home plate and fist-bumped Frazier and ran back to the dugout with him.
He forgot one thing. He forgot Frazier’s bat. Home plate umpire Fieldin Culbreth called him back and Teddy retrieved the bat. It wasn’t the first time he forgot to remove a used bat. Several times when the Reds scored a run, Teddy was at home plate to greet baserunners and forgot the bat.
Nobody minded. Not even Culbreth, who had to remind Teddy a few times.
Teddy, you see, is special. Teddy has Down Syndrome.
The thing about Teddy’s home run request was that in Frazier’s previous at-bat he struck out, but Teddy was ready.
“He tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘It’s all right. I still love you. You’ll be fine,'” Frazier said. “How can you be mad after any at bat with something like that? Actually, he kind of relaxed me.”
But it still took Frazier by surprise before his next at-bat.
“I was standing on the steps before I went on deck because I was up third,” said Frazier. “He said, ‘C’mon, brother, I love you. Hit me a home run.’ And I said, ‘You got it,’ not really thinking anything about it.
“With the wind blowing in real hard I didn’t think I had a shot. I hit it, and when I hit second base I realized it really did happen. I knew he would be waiting for me. It was special, touches your heart, makes you realize there is more to life than baseball in general. He had a big smile and gave me a big bear hug.”
Teddy had two other requests. When Reds pitchers strike out 11 or more batters, fans get free pizza.
“Teddy loves pizza and he kept saying, ‘Let’s get 11 strikeouts,’” manager Dusty Baker said.
That request, too, was fulfilled. In the ninth inning, Reds relief pitcher J.J. Hoover struck out Chris Valaika, the 11th strikeout of the night.
And there was one more thing. “He told me before the game that he wanted 11 runs,” Baker said. “Doggone if we didn’t do that, too.”
After the game, Teddy was on the field with the rest of the team as they celebrated. Second baseman Brandon Phillips put his arm around Teddy’s waist and Teddy put his arm around Brandon’s waist and they walked hip-to-hip to the dugout.
Being a mascot-type isn’t new to Teddy. A few years ago he roamed the sidelines during football games at prep powerhouse Cincinnati Colerain, wearing a sweat shirt that read, “Twelfth Man.”
And he had practice at soothing things over, as he did with Frazier after the strikeout.
At one Colerain game, kicker Brad Schutte missed an extra point and the Cardinals lost a regional final game by one point to Elder. While everybody stayed clear of Schutte, Teddy walked up to him and uttered words of encouragement, accompanied by one of his bear hugs.
When Teddy was picked to be a batboy last year via an auction, the Reds were unaware that he was a Down syndrome victim until he walked into the clubhouse.
There was concern.
But Luke Stowe, a clubhouse attendant and the son of clubhouse manager Rick Stowe, took Teddy around and came back to report to his father, “He’s great. There will be no problems. This kid is perfect.”
Said Rick Stowe, “He knew every player’s name. He knew (batting coach) Brook Jacoby. He is upbeat and positive about everything.”
So did Teddy ask any other players to hit home runs for him?
“He didn’t ask me,” Phillips said.
“He asked me,” Xavier Pau saidl. “But I didn’t come through.”
And Teddy said, “That’s OK, you’ll do it next time.”
Said Frazier, “I’ll bet he went to bed pretty happy. I know I did. It was very cool.”