FALL RIVER, Mass. — His mother has heard him referred to as the “bat boy,” and she’s also heard him called the “team manager.”
To the Durfee High School baseball team, he’s just one of the guys. He is simply “Scotty.”
Scotty is 16-year-old Durfee sophomore Scott Strong (pictured), who was born with Down syndrome, and has become a fixture with the Hilltopper baseball team this season, whether he’s retrieving bats or pumping up the players.
In his first season dressing as a member of the team, Scotty, wearing the number 4, has found a way to make an impact with the guys.
“He gets us pumped up for the games,” said Durfee catcher Javier Moniz. “He’s a big part of the team. He’s always paying attention and his head is always in the game. He knows the game of baseball. He’s like an assistant coach out there.”
Scotty’s mother, Jennifer Strong, however, says it’s the other way around.
“I can’t stress to you how good these guys have been to my son,” an emotional Strong said. “I don’t have enough words to say how grateful I am to them. High school is all about fitting in and they have done such a great job of accepting him. They might not know it, but they have really changed a kid’s life just by being a friend. They’re not doing it for the recognition. This is how they truly are, and I just want them to know how much it means to Scotty.”
Strong was concerned a year ago when Scotty was about to enter high school. She wondered how someone with Down syndrome fit in at Durfee, where the student population exceeds 2,100. Would students laugh at him? Ignore him? The questions were running through her mind.
“I was very scared of him going to Durfee,” Strong said. “I was worried about him not being accepted by the kids, but he has thrived there. Now, with him being a part of the baseball team, that’s the icing on the cake.”
When Scotty was in eighth grade and looking into attending Durfee, Strong was told it was highly recommended the students become involved in activities.
“They stressed getting kids involved in the school community,” she said. “Scotty loves sports — all kinds — and one way he could interact would be through sports.”
Scotty’s special education paraprofessional at Durfee, Margaret Cunha, took Scotty under her wing and spoke to several coaches — one of whom was Hilltopper varsity baseball coach Brad Bustin.
“Margaret came up and asked me if we could get him involved with the team,” Bustin said. “He’s been great. He gives kids high fives. Our guys cling to him. They go over and talk to him about baseball during the game.”
“He knows a lot about sports,” said Durfee first baseman/DH Trey Davidson. “He knows the Red Sox lineups and things like that. He’s a guy who gives off good vibes.”
“I’m always joking around with him,” Moniz said. “I’ll say things like, ‘I’ll strike you out, Scotty.’ When the game begins, we’re serious about playing, but we love to joke around with him.”
Scotty refers to the Durfee players as his friends, and the feeling is apparently mutual.
“I was invited to his birthday party,” said outfielder Devin Sanders. “He’s always asking me to play video games at his house.”
Scotty, who mainly attends the Durfee home games, said his primary job with the team is to “get the bats” and “cheer.”
“It’s a shame we only get him for the home games,” said junior pitcher Nick Silva. “It’s a blast to have him here.”
“He gives us great energy,” Sanders said. “If we strike out, he’ll come right over and tell us to go get ’em next time.”
Because of the time he spends hanging around the baseball players, Scotty has changed, according to his mother.
“He’s always been outgoing and friendly,” Strong said, “but he has so much more confidence in himself now — ‘I can do it, mom.’ He’s one of the guys now, and I can’t thank them enough.”
Bustin isn’t surprised by the impact his players have had on Scotty.
“We have 13 seniors, and I get compliments from a lot of people about their behavior,” said Bustin. “We had a kickoff dinner on April 8 to start our season and there were about 300 people there. All the players showed up in shirts and ties, and there were several compliments about them that night.”
Scotty’s passion for sports doesn’t end with baseball. He is a huge football fan — more specifically, a diehard Buffalo Bills fan.
But when it comes to choosing a favorite sport, however, Scotty is quick to answer.
“Baseball,” he said without hesitation.
He’s even quicker to answer when asked about his favorite baseball team.
“Durfee,” he said with a smile as he pointed to all his friends on the field.
Monday, May 9, 2011
The Herald News:
Posted by BA Haller at 9:46 PM