Teddy flails his arms in the air, winding them to motion a “go.”
On other occasions, he tosses his hands in the air, a clear signal to halt.
“He likes to pretend he’s the coach,” his mother, Bernice Baker, said.
”The third-base coach, Mom,” Teddy clarifies. “It’s important. I tell the ones to go so they can score, and I tell them when to stop so they don’t get out.”Teddy is one of almost 100 participants in the Wise County Special Needs Baseball League, which kicks off its season 9 a.m. Saturday at Renshaw Park in Decatur. At 56, he is one of the oldest participants, reason enough to take on the role of coach.
“We’re really happy about (this baseball league),” Bernice said. “Teddy loves it. He enjoys it very, very much. It gives him exercise, and there’s the socialization. And he likes being the boss.”
Teddy was born Aug. 10, 1956, a couple of months premature, weighing 3 pounds, 12 ounces.
“We don’t know this, but from the results of some tests, we believe he had a stroke,” his mother said.
The effects led to cerebral palsy and mental retardation. And although this was during a time when children like him were often institutionalized, his mother refused.
“My pediatrician encouraged me, put me in touch with the Easter Seals, who work with parents of handicapped children,” she said. “I never thought to put him in an institution. He was going to grow up with me.”
She sought interaction with like children. Bernice admits it was challenging raising him in a time when most of today’s resources were not available. But she never was in it alone.
“We didn’t have all of the therapists that are available now,” she said. “But when we finally located one, they did such a good job with him. We would do what they called behavior patterning to develop his brain. The therapist worked with him, and our neighbors would come and help, too.
“I have a lot of help, a lot of support, which I’m grateful for. My sisters and nieces and nephews – if I need anything, they’re there. I can’t take all the credit.”
She also pointed out the assistance of programs available in the many places the family has called home. Although Bernice is from Decatur, she married Robert, a Yankee who was stationed at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls.
After he got out of the service, the family moved to Delaware, where Teddy was born, then “across the line” to Pennsylvania when Teddy was 14 months old.
The family lived in Pennsylvania for 10 years before moving to Florida “for the weather” then to Texas in 1985.
“He attended a transition center when we lived in Florida and continued in a similar program in Decatur until he got too old,” Bernice said. “Then he began attending workshops at Helen Farabee (Center in Decatur). Those workshops have developed into a dayhab.”
Teddy goes to the center 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday for arts and crafts, programs and outings.
“It’s just like school,” his mother said. “And he was invited to participate in the Special Needs Baseball through Helen Farabee last spring.”
Growing up, his mother deliberately preserved as much normalcy as possible, mirroring the life of his younger sister, Doris.
The two were in a bowling league together, went to the carnival together, played outside, played card games and did puzzles with their mother.
Teddy also participated in the Special Olympics and “used to run a lot.”
“But he’s gotten lazy,” his mother said.
As if to nullify her point, Teddy grabs his walker and begins to pace around the perimeter of their home.
“He loves baseball,” she added. “He likes television – he gets a lot of his information from the television. He likes music – Elvis Presley, rock and roll and classical. The classical suprises me because I don’t listen to that music. I don’t know how he found it. He also likes talking on the microphone.”
“I have a radio station, you know,” Teddy interjects.
He picks up his microphone and clears his throat.
“Join us at 9 p.m. Central for a match up between the Dallas Cowboys and Seattle Seahawks,” he said. “It’s sure to be a close game between two talented teams. Then in a few days join us for the baseball game. It’s going to be a close one. Last year’s game was tied 5-5.”
He puts the microphone down and matter-of-factly points out, “I scored that tying run.”
Returning to broadcaster speak, he adds, “I may even sing the National Anthem.”
Player, coach, announcer or singer – there’s a place for everyone in the Special Needs Baseball League. Teddy has found several.
For late player registration or to be a player’s buddy or other volunteer, call (940) 577-1848. All special needs individuals, ages 3 through adult, can play regardless of disability.