Home > Life, Really?, Spirituality/Religion > “High-Five, Buddy!”

“High-Five, Buddy!”

My old school friend, Holly, wrote as her Facebook status the other day, “For those of you who know Buddy (and even those of you who don’t) please say a prayer for him this morning. He is having a pacemaker put in.”

Wow, Buddy Judd. I hadn’t thought about him in years. The reminder made me smile as memories of him downloaded onto my mental screen. Pictures of Buddy, along with all the other people who made those days memorable flashed by like in a dream.

I first met Buddy when I was 12, when I was one of the first girls in my small New Hampshire town to try out for Little League baseball. Grudgingly, the “commissioner” agreed to let me try out after some gentle persuasion from my dad. When it turned out I was the only player who could throw the ball over the plate, they made me the pitcher.

Most of my teammates were younger (and shorter) than I was, but one was a little older and bigger, past the actual eligibility age. That was Buddy.

Buddy was developmentally disabled, more mentally than physically, and he loved to play baseball. The coach would put him in right field and he’d be out there hooting and cheering while I did my best not to laugh as I tried to throw the ball across the plate. On the rare occasion that it got hit past the right side of the infield, Buddy always gave good chase and managed to get it back in. The rest of the team didn’t play much better but we always had fun.

Later on in high school, I remember seeing Buddy in the halls, high-fiving all the popular guys and calling their names. The boys would good-naturedly distend their bottom lips with their tongues to imitate his speech impediment and return his greeting with, “Hey, Bud Judd!” Buddy always laughed and continued gleefully down the hall, repeating the gesture several times on his way to wherever it was he went.

The guys always gave Buddy an honorary position with the sports teams — morale booster, perhaps? — like “Radio”.  He was a high-fiver extraordinaire, and I knew from personal experience that his enthusiasm always made the game more exciting.

This past Sunday, I went with friends to a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game. The real fan in the group was my friend’s 80+ year old mother, Fran, who requires a wheelchair to attend such events. Sunday was “Zorilla Day” in honor of Rays’ player Ben Zobrist. The first 10,000 kids under age 14 would receive a little Zorilla Gorilla Webkinz.

Fran wanted one.

As we progressed through the stadium, my friend approached every official-looking person she saw and asked if her mom could have a Zorilla. They just shook their heads and said, “Sorry. For kids only.”

Finally, we reached our seats in the handicapped section high above the left field wall. A woman and her teenaged son sat in the seats next to us. My friend struck up a conversation with the woman, regaling her about our frustration at not being able to acquire a Zorilla. The woman’s son sat and watched the teams intently as they warmed up. A short while later, he silently got up from his seat and walked away.

The rest of us cheered the scoreless game for an inning or two before the boy returned. When he did, he walked over to Fran and gently handed her a little gorilla dressed in a baseball jersey before taking his seat again.

We all looked at Fran, speechless.

My friend turned to the boy and his mother in amazement and asked, “How did you get this?” The mother explained that her son is autistic and she brings him to games there all the time. Most of the employees at Tropicana Field know him, and when he needs something they’re always happy to get it for him.

Fran thanked him and clutched her Zorilla through the rest of the game. I clutched the memory of that moment.

Sometimes I fail to recognize the impact people like Buddy Judd and this boy have on the world. If they are not angels themselves, they at least have the power to communicate with the ones that influence the rest of us.

Buddy Judd, I hope that pacemaker helps you continue to set the pace for those around you and buys you another 50 years worth of high-fives. I know a lot of people who could use them right about now…

  1. April 27, 2010 at 8:27 pm

    I have tears… for memories of Bud Judd high-fiving down the hallways and for that wonderfully thoughtful boy at the stadium.

  2. Belinda Grant
    April 28, 2010 at 12:04 am

    Your writings always enlighten me and usually bring tears. Thank you so much for this very touching story about Bud and my Mom! You are the best! B

  3. Larry
    April 28, 2010 at 12:57 am

    Thanks, Ellen. I’ve never met Bud Judd, buy you are right: the world needs to spend more time with people like Bud right now.

  4. May 4, 2010 at 7:02 am

    What a very wonderful post. Have a blessed day.

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