This story is about 13 year old Peyton Judkins, son of Alyn and Connie Judkins of Greer, SC. Alyn serves as Vice President-Procurement with Eastern. Peyton’s brother, Andrew, is an 8th grader on the baseball team at St. Joseph’s Catholic School in Greenville, SC.

Peyton was born with Downs Syndrome. Around the age of three, the family learned that he also had cerebral palsy. This was a complicated and compounded case that most would think, WOW, how difficult that must be for him and the family. While it is easy to recognize the challenges they face, it is also easy to miss the joy and blessings Peyton brings to his family and so many others.

The current challenge the family faces is that Peyton is a growing boy. While he has a good quality of life, his growth spurt has affected his gait and balance. Hurdles await him as there will probably be surgery ahead to aid in loosening muscle tightness in his heel and the left side of his body. With additional growth ahead of him, it becomes a greater concern regarding his physical alignment in the future.

What most people miss about Peyton is that he absolutely loves to make people laugh. He just wants to have fun. Peyton loves baseball, he loves his baseball family, but he also knows that it is just a game. He makes everyone around him smile and yet is quite aware of everything going on during the game.

Peyton is every bit a part of the entire baseball program at St. Joseph’s. In fact, he is an inspiration to all who have ever been to a JV or Varsity game. You see, after every game, Peyton gets a chance to shine. Before any celebration or team meeting, Peyton steps into the batters’ box and gets his chance to score the winning run. After a pitch or two, he hits the ball and runs around the horn to score an in-the-park home run – he’s batting a thousand this year! Part of the team surrounds him, helping him around the bases while the rest of the team tries to field the ball in the outfield.

He is greeted at home by the entire team, and they yell…PEYTON, PEYTON, PEYTON! Most of the time, he captures the love and support from the opposing team, and they cheer and clap for him to hustle around the bases. It takes him a while to get through high-fiving everyone on the field and getting his game ball for scoring the winning run. Eventually he exits the field with a smile the size of Texas.

Peyton helps us to remember that baseball is just a game. Attack it with all your heart, but realize that one day, your playing days are over and there is more to this life. He shows us not to take the game out of context and enjoy it. When it’s over, it’s over.

Learn from God’s lessons and apply them to our lives. Peyton inspires us to leave the field with a little bit of a different look on life. Most importantly to Peyton, celebrate the game regardless of what the score board shows, laugh out loud and appreciate the gifts and abilities God has given to us. There are no accidents in God’s plans for us.

In our world of winning above all else, expecting instant gratification in our quest to be number one, Peyton reminds us of God’s unconditional love for us. He reminds us that there is so much more than the game of baseball. He exposes our hearts and humbles us to see there can be pure joy in serving others.

A funny thing that Peyton does during the game is to occasionally say to the umpire, “Come on Man!” He cracks us all up with his commentary and remarks during the game. He is a brilliant young man, and the more you’re around him, the more you realize it. He is on the field as much as he is physically able. He even shows up and helps out on the field during work days!

The Knights are in their quest to earn back-to-back State Championships. This season, though, we have found a different form of inspiration to keep working harder each day. The inspiration is Peyton Judkins. Unless you have ever been in a position to win back-to-back titles, you have no idea how hard it is to motivate and inspire drive in your players. You have no idea of how much pressure is put on you from others. Peyton allows us to see how blessed we are to have the gifts God has given us. His gift of joy for the game instills in us a spirit to give and serve others which raises the level of our play. Because when we are of one heartbeat, we’re stronger than an individual star. It also enables us to glorify God by making the most of everything God has given us. He allows us to forget all of the outside “noise” and see to things in the purest, simplest form of love. He motivates us to be better today than yesterday.

While Peyton will never actually suit up for a game, he might as well, because he leads the team in batting average and game winning home runs! You can bet that if God blesses the Knights with another state title, Peyton will again score the winning run and he’ll be right in the middle of the pile.

by John Barwick, Athletic Director
Mauldin Parks & Recreation, Mauldin, SC
(May 2013)