Now Batting and Playing Short: 2-Year-Old Baby Dew Varner, Baseball's Tiny Tot of Swat
updated 08/26/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/26/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT
The kid's entitled to a slump. Now only 2, Baby Dew has been whacking line drives since he was 18 months old. Most children don't develop the kind of eye-hand coordination necessary to bat a ball until they reach at least the age of 4, says Chicago pediatric orthopedic surgeon Luciano Diaz. When told of Baby Dew's wizardry at the plate, Diaz said, "This child sounds unique to me." Diaz's own son is 5 and just "starting to hit the ball, but he misses a lot."
It's all in Baby Dew's approach to the game. Trudging toward the batter's box, his diaper peeking out from his shorts, the 35-pound, 32-inch slugger grips his bat at the end of the handle—no choking up for this Baby Ruth—and settles into his unorthodox stance, feet parallel to the plate, body facing the mound. When dad Scott, a 32-year-old meat inspector, serves up the first pitch, Baby Dew takes a mighty cut—and misses the ball by a mile. Unfazed, he gurgles once, draws a bead on the next pitch and bangs a frozen rope down the third-base line.
Sadly, as the day progresses, Baby Dew can muster only an anemic—for him—.250 average. "I'm not gonna make excuses for him," says Scott. "He's just not hitting the ball." But Momma knows best. As Valerie Varner, 29, explains it, Baby Dew has been breaking training. "He requires a long nap," she says. "For attitude." The kid offers no explanations. Though he started walking at 10 months, he commands a vocabulary of only 10 words—about the same as some grown-up major leaguers.
Baby Dew first picked up a bat in anger last winter, while watching Bridget practice her swing in the basement of the Varners' Edgington, III. home. He just grabbed that plastic bat and started swinging. "This kid, I never taught him a thing," Scott says. "I haven't messed with him. I just say, 'Get your bat.' " Though neither parent would ever press Baby Dew to seek baseball stardom against his wishes, Scott admits he wouldn't exactly complain if the kid grew up to play in the bigs. "I always wanted to play for the Yankees myself," he says.
At the plate, Baby Dew can do it all, whether belting back the right-handed tosses of his dad or pounding some long drives off his batting tee. The kid's defense needs some work, however. He tends to chase the ball after he hits it, wherever it may fly, and when fielding he often attempts to throw with his glove hand, with the ball still nestled in his glove.
Luckily Baby Dew has plenty of time to work on fundamentals. Chicago Cubs head scout Vedie Himsl, 68, feels it's a bit soon to start scouting this wunderkind. "The earliest I look at someone is as a sophomore in high school. Usually I don't start paying much attention till they're juniors." Come on, Vedie. These are the Cubs we're talking about here. They need help, now.