Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The newest greeter at the Angels Team Store

from The Orange County Register by Marcia A. Smith:

The first face many fans see as they stream into the Team Store during games at Angel Stadium this season is smiling, often giggling, infectiously warm and inviting.

It belongs to Trevor Hendershot, the 21-year-old Irvine man with a sandy brown mop top, a red polo shirt tucked into his khaki pants, and black slip-on sneakers.He is a greeter whose first day on the job was the Angels' season opener on April 6. The victory doubled as a life opener for Hendershot.

This is his first paying job, a huge triumph toward independence for the man born with Down Syndrome, a genetic disorder that causes lifelong mental retardation and developmental delays.

The Angels and Team Store operator AEG could have hired anyone. They gave the opportunity to Hendershot.

To arriving shoppers during the first homestand, he proudly said, "Welcome to the Angels Team Store," sometimes rushing through the greeting to say it again and again and again so as not to miss anyone.

Many fans lit up. Some stopped and shook his hand to say, "Hello." Some high-fived and bumped fists with him, sparking laughter from the young man who loves to be around people, particularly sports fans.
"I'm excited," Hendershot said about his new job. "The people are nice."

Having Down Syndrome, Hendershot quietly realizes, can make some people uncomfortable. His facial features are doughy and subtle, his speech slurred but his smile and spirit unmistakably outgoing, kind and genuine.

"You can't train people to be that way," said Team Store senior retail manager Martin Marin. "That's why we picked Trevor."

Hendershot loves the Angels. He can tell you every players' jersey number and position. He can list everyone on the 2002 World Series champion team. He can point shoppers to the wall of No. 5 jerseys of his favorite Angels player of the moment.

"Albert Pujols. Pu-jols! Pu-jols! He's the best," he said enthusiastically, knowing the Angels slugger has a 14-year-old daughter, Bella, with Down Syndrome.

Hendershot makes the connection proudly. He wants to show that his condition doesn't keep him hidden at home or unable to do a public job well.

For every Angels home game, from two hours before every first to a half hour after the final out, Hendershot will man his post by the glass double doors. Proudly. Confidently. And with a smile.

Seeing his son work brings his father, Bob Hendershot, nearly to tears. The two had been inquiring about this job since August when a fellow member of Voyager's Bible Church in Irvine told them there might be an opportunity at the Team Store.

The father and son attended the Challenger Little League tournament at Angel Stadium in November. They met Angels chairman Dennis Kuhl and former Angels pitchers Scott Lewis and Clyde Wright, who signed the shoulder of Trevor's favorite Angels T-shirt.

Trevor won them over with his engaging personality, making them feel at ease. He has been doing that all his life, which has been filled with challenges since the May 4, 1990 day he was born in a Laguna Hills hospital.

"You have a son, my first child, and it's the happiest day of my life, and then five minutes later, the doctor says, 'Do you know what Down Syndrome is?'" recalled Bob Hendershot.

"Then that was the saddest moment of my life, going from the utter joy to utter devastation."

Friends and fellow churchgoers came to the hospital to visit Bob and Melissa Hendershot. Feeling the support of their community "was the first sign things would be okay," the father remembered.

Bob Hendershot, 57, a manufacturer's representative for a wholesale custom computer hardware dealer, took time away from his job to spend Trevor's early years working with his son's speech, visual recognition and motor skills.

"It was important to stimulate him early and teach him how to walk correctly rather than let him wrestle with incorrect steps," the father said. "He really has grown up well."

Bob and Melissa Hendershot have two other children, Taylor, 19, and Tanner, 18. They traveled everywhere as a family, going to the beach, the movies, Angels games and Bible study.

That's where the Hendershots met Les and Beverly Barkley, whose son, Matt, is the same age at Trevor. The two infants used to share a play pen during the study.

Matt Barkley went on to become the USC quarterback, and Trevor found himself his own place on the gridiron as quarterback of Pop Warner's Challenger division Saddleback Valley Wolverines.

Growing up, Trevor played sports in leagues with other children who had physical and mental challenges.

In camaraderie, rather than scores, statistics or records, came the sweetest victories.

He swung a bat and threw a baseball in T-ball. His father coached his VIP/Challenger division AYSO team in soccer.

He wore No. 75 for his Special Olympics basketball team. He pulled on No. 88 as quarterback for the flag-football Wolverines, helping score three touchdowns for one memorable come-from-behind victory.

"Big guys sometimes fall on you," said Trevor Hendershot, who made his league's All-Star team and played in a bowl game this past season. "It's not supposed to be tackle!"

School, particularly math, was tough to tackle since he has been mainstreamed, attending classes with students who didn't have his learning disabilities.

But at Northwood High in Irvine, Hendershot made so many friends with students and teachers he was voted Homecoming King in 2010.

Hendershot has learned to read well and write. He worked with Project Independence Orange County to get unpaid job experience in stocking and organizing store shelves at Trader Joe's and a Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts store.

He has grown so comfortable with computers that he spends hours surfing the Internet to learn the lyrics of his favorite Beach Boys songs and download bagpipe music.

"I don't know where he got that taste," his father said laughing. "It's strange."

Trevor searches the Web, finds and memorizes the capitals of all 50 states and the nicknames of hundreds of colleges big and small.

"Test him!" his father said.

Quickly and without fail, Trevor answered "Bruins" for UCLA, "Bulls" for the University of South Florida, "Tigers" for Princeton and, slapping his long arms together, "Gators" for the University of Florida.
"If they ever have Down Syndrome week on 'Jeopardy' and the category is 'College Nicknames,' we're set," his father joked.

"Yes, we're going to win," Trevor gushed. "Like the Angels. They're going to win the World Series again.

Getting the Team Store job brings him closer to the Angels he has followed since he was 7 years old. He pays attention to whether they win or lose, gets sad but remains hopeful when they struggle and mourned when promising young pitcher Nick Adenhart died in a 2009 car accident.

"He's gone," he said. "It's very sad."

Among Angels fans, Hendershot belongs. He sailed through the interview for his new job because talking about the Angels comes so naturally to him.

But he got scared when asked to do a drug test because he thought he had to drink his sample, shaking his head, "No!" Then he wanted to high-five the clinician when he was finished.

"Trevor's still learning the ropes of getting a job," said his father, taking a teasing slug in his shoulder from his son. "Every day is a new step."

Trevor Hendershot, the newest greeter at the Angels Team Store, has landed a dream job in Angels' heaven.

1 comment:

  1. I love it it made me bigger angels fan went to a game 2 weeks ago and met Trevor and had to shop I myself have a daughter with Down syndrome keep up the good work