You read about it and watch those muscular dystrophy telephones, but somehow it doesn't really get to you until it strikes home," said John Poore II of College Park.
Reality struck Poore and his family seven years ago when he was told son, John, now 11, had muscular distrophy.
And while MD ia a handicap, John Poore III has done himself and his family-proud by earning a place on the Fox baseball team in the division of the College Park Little League.
He is a right fielder and willing hilter. A designated pinch runner is the only concession anyone makes for the boy who proudly boasts that his team is in second place with a 6-3 record.
John was dressed in his uniform the other afternoon waiting for his coach, Mike Huges, to pick him up for a game. The boy had dressed since coming home from school. He was tossing a ball into the air and catching it in his living room at 5105 Kenesaw St., College Park.
His father works for the National Federation of Federal Employeees. His mother, Linda, works for Dargis Associates, a poster distributing firm in Columbia, Md. Mrs Lucille Fleshman, his grandmother, lives next door and takes care of John and his sister, Tracy, 8, until the parents get home from worK.
"I can bat all right, but I can't run too fast," said John. "I get a runner when I get to first, but I play right field by myself and I throw pretty good. But I have a hard time bending over. Sometimes I fall dowN."
His Holly Park teacher, Bob kempner, says baseball has given John an identity. "When he no longer can play baseball, he will have other things. He's very good at art. And he always will have the fun of being a spectator, Kempner said.
"His problem started about the time John was learning to walk," his mother said. "He had some disturbing characteristics, such as bumping into things and not keeping his balance. We took him to a lot of doctors who kept telling us not to worry - that some children were clumsier than others.
"It kept getting worse and when he was 4 we took him to my father's old doctor in Alexandria - Dr. Forrest Swisher, who runs the Northern Virginia Orthopedic Clinic. He diagnosed it right away after some X-rays - Muscular dystrophy. It tore me up."
John's uniform looks the one the Oakland A's wear - gold and green with black stockings and orange stripes."We had only the cap and shirt last year," John said, throwing a ball into the air and catching it.
"My dad pitches to me every night," he continued. "I get a lot of hits off him, but he doesn't throw the ball as fast as Mr. Hughes and I can hit Mr. Hughes pretty good."
Not all the little League members pat John on the back for his determination. "Some of the kids yell at him," the father said. "Cruel things."
"I don't let it bother me, " said John. "I used to get mad when the other mates stick up for me. I can do anything anybody else does . . ." He faltered: "Well, except maybe not walk as fast or run as hard. I can walk all day, can't I, Mom?"
"You get tired," she said soothingly. "We all get tire dwhen we walk a lot."
She turned to the reporter. "He won't accept a wheelchair," She said. "But we all went to a picnic last Sunday and we walked a lot. So John did accept a wheelchair."
His mother continued: "He falls quite a bit but he doesn't compalian. He has his moments of irritible but he come out out of it quickly. He has a hard time bending over but he faith fulls, takes his orthopedic exercise every day and workd hard." John likes the Redskins and Miami Dolphins. he has never been to as Reskin game but his father takes him to a few Maryland football games. He also loves hockey and has seem several games at Capital Centre with his father.
John started to walk across the room to show the reporter a picture of himself in a cowboy hat. He fell. His father came over and lifted him from the back under the arms.
"Why do I do that?" he wondered.
What is the prognosis, his mother was asked.
She shrugged. "Dr. Kendrick says there are times when John shows great improvement and then he falls back. But thank God for baseball. John doesn't have time to feel sorry for himself. He's too involved."