Pride Of The League
By Ted Prim
Reprinted from Performance, The President's Committee on Employment of the Handicapped, October 1966. The author is a student at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, who has spent the past two summers working on the staff of the President's Committee. He is blind.
"I admire moral courage. Cassius Clay has physical courage and nobody much cares about it; it's moral courage that counts." The words are those of Birdie Tebbetts, until recently manager of the Cleveland Indians. The subject is Jay Mazzone, bat boy for visiting teams in Baltimore's Memorial Stadium.
Jay's accomplishments as a bat boy and as a person have indeed made him deserving of such high praise. A double-arm amputee since age 2, Jay has for practical purposes ignored the existence of his handicap. He has made his artificial limbs perform every task his hands would have normally done.
The son of a Maryland State Trooper and the second of five children, Jay is a seventh grade student at Herring Run Junior High School in Baltimore. The accident causing the loss of Jay's hands occurred on his father's birthday in February of 1955, when kerosene on his hands and clothing was ignited by a trash fire. Since that time Jay has used artificial limbs which he commands with great skill and proficiency. When Baltimore Oriole Manager Hank Bauer was asked about Jay, he said, "We don't think of Jay as handicapped; he does everything a bat boy should do. He has a lot of courage."
"He's not one bit lazy," says Tebbetts, summing up the players' respect for the efficient manner in which Jay performs his duties as a bat boy. All-Star third baseman Brooks Robinson comments, "He has a lot of baseball in him ... a lot of baseball knowledge." All of the players emphasize that he is in the right place at the right time for every situation.
In his time off the job, Jay continues his baseball enthusiasm by playing right field in little league, in which he carried a .300 average this past season.
Tebbetts predicted that Jay would pursue a career involving manual dexterity because he wished to prove himself further. Math and physical education are Jay's two favorite subjects in school and he hopes to follow a teaching career in those fields. Jay feels that teaching gym would pose no serious problems, since he participates in all sports except the rope climb. For the near future, though, he plans to continue working as a bat boy at Memorial Stadium.
Both on and off the field, Jay displays a lot of determination and willingness to do the best job he can -what the ballplayers call "hustle." He wants to be as independent as he can, and he makes the necessary effort to assure this independence. As one Oriole staff member said, "He dresses himself, you know, and that takes him just a little bit longer. We're real proud of that boy."
Bauer curiously watches Jay cope with new situations and environments. Bauer had his first chance to eat with Jay on the day of the All-Star game in which Jay was the bat boy for the American League. Bauer was amazed to find that Jay encountered no difficulty in opening a catsup bottle and in handling skillfully all the utensils required to eat gracefully. Jay expresses his philosophy of life when he says, "It's not what others think you can do; it's what you know you can do."
In view of all the publicity that Jay has received, one might think that he had become conceited. However, even after being chosen specially to attend the Ail-Star game as bat boy for the American League and after meeting Vice President Humphrey, he remains an extremely polite and modest youngster. When asked which player he likes best, he responds immediately, "I like all of them." Asked about the Orioles' chances to win the pennant, Jay answers, "I think we have a good chance but as Hank says, 'You're never sure you'll win the pennant until you're ten games ahead with only nine to play.'" One cannot help being impressed with his wish to be helpful, his modest replies.
Personable and witty, Jay mixes very well with the players, and they enjoy his presence. Bauer once said after the catsup incident, "Hey, Jay, give me a pinch." Jay quipped in return, "Do you want me to draw blood, sir?"
Brooks Robinson relates the following story: "Jay made the lineup one day and he had me batting eighth. I said, 'Hey, Jay, I've been batting cleanup all year; how come you've got me batting eighth?' 'You're batting second cleanup tonight,' he said."
The joking goes both ways, though. Bauer often ribs Jay about making errors on his catches when foul balls roll down off the protective net behind home plate.
Through the assets of determination, courage, affability, and modesty, Jay Mazzone has already achieved much and promises to accomplish many more outstanding feats in the future. Perhaps the following two comments summarize Jay's impression on others and his ability to surmount his handicap. "He's been an inspiration to all of us," says Tebbetts admiringly. Indian catcher Del Crandall remarks when asked about Jay, "What more can you say-he does everything just like a nonhandicapped person."