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Player with Down syndrome brings passion to baseball

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FARMINGTON — When Blake Curtis gets up to bat, there are a lot of cheers from every direction.

"Blakey," a 17-year-old boy with Down syndrome, is the 10th player on the field for the Angels in the Pony Division. They allow one extra player on the field, so that nobody gets put on the bench when he's on the field. He has been playing since he was 5-years-old when his mom took him out to the fields. Years and several teams later, he is still as enthusiastic about the game as ever.

"As soon as I tell Blake there's a game, he'll put his uniform on," said Blake's father and coach Jeff Curtis. "Most times I come home, and the game isn't for three hours, he's already home with his uniform on, saying, ‘come on let's go play.' "

In addition to the 10-player rule, the league rules have been modified for him. For example, when he's batting, the strike zone is a bit more liberal. If he swings at a bad pitch, it's still called a "ball."

"If it's over his head and he swings, it's a ball," Curtis said. "But if it's in the strike zone, it's a strike, no matter what he does. But that does two things: it forces the pitcher to throw strikes and it gives Blake a chance to go up and wail away and see what happens. And he's hit pretty good, he's done pretty well."

Blakey can set his own limits. The most important thing with anyone with a disability is you need to let them set their own limits.

–- Jeff Curtis, father

Curtis has a lot of gratitude for the support of the community, but he also realizes that you have to take things into your own hands and, as he put it, "don't ask."

"I get on the phone and I say, ‘Blake's Down syndrome and he's gonna play,' " Curtis said.

Blake plays each game with great enthusiasm. Curtis credits that to all the players, parents and the league for giving Blake the chance to play. He adds, however, that Blake can play because of the work he's put into it himself.

"Blakey can set his own limits," Curtis said. "The most important thing with anyone with a disability is you need to let them set their own limits."

The boys on the teams Blake has played on throughout the years have usually come to accept the boy, and fill their roles on the team and in his life. Curtis describes the team as good to him and supportive of him. They've also learned from him.

"We're the lucky ones to have him," Curtis said.

The Angels have wrapped up their 12-game regular schedule, with three wins, eight losses and a tie. But, the post- season starts Monday. The team now has an opportunity to win the league championship, which takes place this coming week. First game of the tournament is Monday night.


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