May 30, 2012Keith Remington waited four years for the only at-bat of his high school career. Four years of shagging foul balls at Remich Park. Four years of lugging equipment across the outfield from the storage shed over to the dugout. Four years of doing all the little chores no one else wanted to do simply because he loved being around Littleton High's baseball team.
Four years flew by like four minutes and the reward for the Crusaders student manager came in the bottom of the sixth inning against Woodsville High last Wednesday. Four years earned Remington one at-bat — one memory that will likely last a lifetime.
Remington is enrolled in the special needs program at Littleton High and has selflessly toiled as the team manager for coach Greg Fillion throughout high school. After faithfully serving the team Remington played the outfield in the top of the first inning against Woodsville and got that singular plate appearance in the sixth inning of the final home game of his senior year.
"He's been our manager four years. He's at every practice and every home game," Fillion said. "He's always asking what time practice is. He's here in his workout stuff and a lot of times he goes through practice with us — gets into drills. He's one of the kids, one of the team members."
Dugout chatter is a universal language and Remington jabs with the best of them.
"I know he enjoys being around the field. And our kids love him being around," Fillion said. "He's always teasing the guys on the team and letting them know when they do something wrong. He's a good guy to have around."
His plate appearance arrived in the bottom of the sixth against Woodsville reliever Matt Abrams. Abrams hit Remington with a pitch — so he didn't get to swing but ended his career with a perfect 1.000 on-base percentage.
"I was thinking 'Just get hit, get on base,' " Remington said.
Remington got plunked by a fastball while Woodsville coach Willy Kingsbury cringed from the visitors dugout — Kingsbury avoided a bruise but was touched by the pitch just the same.
"We certainly didn't want to hit him but it was a lot better than getting struck out. When Greg (Fillion) told me before the game he was going to play him — it makes you take a step back. In life sometimes people miss out on those little things," said Kingsbury, who also happens to be a special education teacher at King Street School in Woodsville. "I had a soft spot in my heart for him. I heard the applause when he came out (for a pinch runner). You see that little something special Greg did for him. It's something special that will last him more than just an at-bat, more than just a game."
Coach Fillion said Remington didn't mind taking one for team.
"The ball came at him and he was going to take it and run to first," Fillion said. "I would have liked to see him swing the bat — but hey, he enjoyed himself and I think all the kids enjoyed watching him out there too."
Remington handled three chances in the outfield in the first inning against Woodsville — perhaps a swifter fielder would have made a few catches on those outfield shots but Remington gathered each drive and hit the cutoff man every time.
"Get your hands on the ball, throw it to the cutoff — do anything you can to get an out," Remington said.
Chris Parker is the food service director for Littleton High School and Remington volunteers in the kitchen. Remington was given his maroon jersey last Monday.
"He walked into that kitchen first thing Monday morning with his uniform. He was so thrilled to be playing. I can't put into words how happy he was to get into that game. Keith has worked for me in the kitchen the last three years. He's a tremendous kid. He's an ultimate baseball fan, Red Sox fan," Parker said. "We've talked baseball for years. I'm really going to miss him. He's a great, great kid. He just loves the game of baseball. Every day he comes into the kitchen in the morning and talks to me. Keith always talks strategy and he knows baseball. We've talked Red Sox baseball forever."
Remington qualified Parker's observation on the duration of his Red Sox fandom.
"I want to say I've been following the Red Sox since '04, since they won their World Series," Remington said.
Now Remington can talk about his 1.000 career on-base percentage — although he never really needed to reach first base to measure up to his teammates.
"There's not a ton of kids that want to do that (manager's) role. He loves doing it. He's enjoyed it. He's very dedicated. He's committed," Fillion said. "If you ask him — he's a part of this team."
Littleton defeated Woodsville 14-8 in Remington's debut — a victory in the final regular-season home game. The Division IV Tournament begins on Thursday and Remington hopes the Crusaders aren't done yet — he's not ready for his senior season to end.
"I would like to bring a championship to this town," Remington said.
State championship banner or not — he brought something special to Littleton's lineup on a sunny afternoon at the ballpark. Four years yielded one at-bat — a fastball and a bruise that will disappear in a few days — the memory won't likely fade so soon. For Littleton's team manager it seemed a fair trade.
"I got to play out on the field with my friends," Remington said.