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Archive for Sunday, July 21, 1996

BALLPLAYER SHINES ON FIELD

July 21, 1996

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T.J. Kaberline throws his heart into the game.

In daily life and baseball, T.J. Kaberline has one goal.

"I just do what needs to be done when I have to do it. I never really looked at myself as inspiring people," T.J. said. "I have to do what I have to do."

T.J., 16, was born with spina bifida and uses artificial legs to walk, run and play sports.

As a member of Wempe Bros. baseball team, T.J. bats, pitches and plays first and third base.

And while T.J. may not find himself inspiring, others do.

"Today when I was pitching, he told me to just keep it in my head," said teammate Kurtis Wenger. "It's just his enthusiasm -- never quit."

T.J. lifts weights and plays basketball to stay in shape for baseball.

And taking care of business is the only thing on his mind when he takes the field.

"When I'm playing, I don't really think about my handicap," T.J. said. "Usually, when I'm pitching, I'm thinking `I want to strike this person out.'"

T.J. has played on organized baseball teams for the past four years. When K.C. Wempe drafted T.J. for his team this year, he had some worries. But he knew he was getting a great player.

"When I drafted him I was concerned because I had never coached someone with a handicap," Wempe said. "I was worried about what he could do and he would never let up -- anything from running, hitting and fielding drills. He was a part of all of it."

T.J. attributes a lot of his positive mindset to his legal guardians and grandparents, Leland and Gertrude Kramer.

"We've never used the word `handicapped,'" Leland Kramer said. "I try to stay pretty low-key, other than yell at him when he plays. It's his life and it's his situation."

Leland has coached athletics for 26 years and works with T.J. in practice for games.

Kaberline's grandmother said she and her husband attend all of T.J.'s games and are proud of his accomplishments.

"For us to see him playing baseball is quite an accomplishment," Gertrude Kramer said. "We try to keep a positive attitude that he can do whatever he sets out to do."

This season T.J. set out to play some of the best baseball he has ever played.

Prior to Saturday's season-ending games, T.J. had stolen five bases, thrown 29 strike-outs and saved the game in several situations.

His attitude and ability are what led his teammates to give T.J. the "Sportsmanship of the Year" award.

T.J. said it was great to be recognized by his teammates for his abilities.

"Most people don't take me seriously and it doesn't really bother me because I know what I can do," T.J. said.

Now that the season is over, T.J. plans to work hard to prepare for tryouts for the Lawrence High School baseball team.

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