INDIANAPOLIS – Terry Badger III would’ve loved the Indianapolis Indians’ next homestand, six games against the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, because he loved the Indians, he loved the Cubs, he loved baseball. Playing it, watching it, talking about it, you name it. He was 13. It’s baseball. You get it.
Terry had been to Victory Field before, you know. His Pee Wee league in Covington – a few miles on this side of the Illinois border – named its teams after the Triple-A International League. Terry played on the Mud Hens when he was 4, so when the Mud Hens traveled that year from Toledo to Indianapolis to play the Indians, Terry attended the game with his dad.
Terry loved his dad.
Terry Badger II taught his son everything he knew about baseball, just like his dad had done for him. Terry Badger the first, the original, was a ballplayer back in the day, a slap-hitting lefty who played for North Vermillion High and then coached his sons, Tony and Terry II, from the time they were 4 until they were in Pony League . Terry II did the same as his son, tossing Terry III balled up socks when he was 3, testing his reflexes, then putting him in the Pee Wee league. Terry II coached the Mud Hens. Served as league president too.
Terry did almost everything with his dad, Terry Badger II, and not just baseball. They attended Tony’s wedding together, and afterward everyone’s singing karaoke, and next thing you know, little Terry’s telling his dad he wants to sing. He mentions “Classic” by MTKO, something like that, and pretty soon little Terry’s up there belting it out, and out on the floor everyone’s dancing and singing and shouting his name.
Terry loved to sing.
Terry would have especially loved the Indians’ game Friday night. His Westfield-based Indiana Nitro youth baseball team will be honored that night. They’ll be on the field for the national anthem. Terry’s dad will even throw out the first pitch.
The only part Terry III wouldn’t have loved? The postgame fireworks. He enjoyed the light show, all those colors in the night sky, but he could do without the explosions.
Terry III didn’t love loud noises.
No, he didn’t love everything.
‘You can thank (bullies’ name) for this’
This is one of those stories nobody wants to read, which is why everyone should read it, then share it with their children and make them read it, and then discuss it. Then do it over and over until it sinks in for these kids, for this world, that’s sad, tragically wrong to bully people.
Terry III was bullied. You can guess how that ended. You see the verbs being used alongside his name, all in the past tense. He’s been gone since March 6, when he returned home from school and decided he’d had enough.
He was a stocky kid, a little overweight, but he was a star baseball player. There was talk around Covington that Terry III would play this spring on the varsity as a seventh-grader – the Covington High varsity – and Terry had his career mapped out. He’d played for Covington High for six years, pitching and playing third base. Who knows, maybe they’d retire his number at Covington.
After that he’d play for Purdue. Terry made that decision after meeting Boilers pitcher Khal Stephen. This was a few years back, when Stephen pitched in the Prospect League, a summer wooden-bat league for college players. Stephen was playing for the Danville Dans, just across the Illinois border. Who knows, maybe Terry would sign a letter-of-intent with Purdue.
After that he’d get drafted, preferably by his absolute favorite team, St. Louis, and play in the big leagues and achieve his goal of visiting every Major League ballpark. He and his dad had already been to Wrigley Field in Chicago and Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Several dozen left to see, and one way or another, Terry was going to see them.
From March: Baseball phenom, 13, dies by suicide. He came home from school, left video: ‘I hate my life’
Terry was going places in baseball, a natural, a slugger who hit his first home run at age 8, liked it so much he hit two more in the same game, and liked that so much he hit 27 home runs, total, over the next few years despite playing in leagues against kids several years older. He was a pitcher, too, firing a 71-mph fastball at age 13.
Terry Badger III was making a name for himself.
Other kids didn’t like that, apparently. They called him names, picking on his physique, his haircut, his shoes, his clothes. His parents work for their money – Robyn Badger is a manager at McDonald’s, and Terry II is a mechanical tech at Dynamic Components in Danville – and Terry dresses just fine, but kids would ask if he got his clothes at thrift stores. Kids are mean like that.
Terry Badger III got home about 3 pm on March 6. His mom dropped him off, then left to put gas in the car. Terry went to his room and recorded a video on his phone.
“I get picked on every (single) day and I hate my life,” Terry said on the video. “You can thank (Terry listed his bullies’ names) for this.”
Robyn Badger returned home to a nightmare, finding Terry in his room, dead by suicide.
No, you don’t want to read this story. And your kids? Whatever their situation – bullies, being bullied, somewhere in the middle – won’t want to read it either. They’ll hate this story.
Dad: “I got called ‘Moo Moo’, ‘Fatso'”
It became Indiana State law on May 4. House Bill 1483, officially.
The TB3 bill, it’s called.
A state representative from Gary, Vernon G. Smith, read about Terry in the IndyStar. He read how Terry’s parents had told school leaders in Covington about the bullying, how it continued until March 6, how Robyn and Terry Badger II don’t feel like enough was done to protect their son. Rep. Smith wrote the bill and cried with other lawmakers as it made its way through discussions and committees. It was signed into law May 4 by Gov. Holcomb.
The TB3 bill requires schools to report bullying accusations to parents of victims and perpetrators, and to prioritize student safety all the way up to the transfer of the victim – or the bully – to another school.
From 2016: Doyel: Heart attack won’t keep Indians broadcaster from radio booth
Bullying will never stop, probably. People are people, and kids are kids. That doesn’t make it acceptable, nor should we get numbed to another story in the news about another bully and another victim and what time did the Colts play on Sunday anyway?
No, this has gone on for too long. Know who else was bullied as a kid? Terry’s dad. Terry II says he was overweight as a kid – he and TB3 recently started a weight-loss program; Terry II has lost 121 pounds and counting – and leaned into it, wearing No. 44 in baseball because it was a number, he thought, for big kids.
“They called me 4-by-4,” he says. “I got called ‘Moo Moo’, ‘Fatso’. I was bigger in the chest than most dudes, so they called me ‘Big Titty Terry’. I got hammered pretty hard when I was a kid. I kind of run with it. I didn’t let it get to me and beat me down.”
Terry II realizes now just how different bullying is, how “far” it has come, since he was a kid. Cell phones, social media, even interactive video games like Fortnite – bullies have so many outlets now to spew their poison. Terry II heard what other kids were shouting at his son during their Xbox games, despicable things, evil suggestions that if Terry III didn’t like the way things were going, well, he should just… you know.
Terry and Robyn Badger are determined that, from all this tragedy, something good and lasting will emerge. With donations poured into their homes and places of work and even a GoFundMe page created in early March to help with funeral costs, the family plans to build a community center for children in Covington. Tony Badger, Terry II’s brother and TB3’s uncle, has been leading that effort. He’s looking into land and drawing up plans.
“There’s nothing in town for these kids to do,” Terry II says, “and we wonder why they’re out doing things they’re not supposed to be doing. We have a city park, but the toys are for little kids. Not all kids like to play on playgrounds, and not all love sports. Some like to go on computers, some kids love to read books. We want to build a place for kids to go after school and let their energy out.”
The TB3 Complex, it’ll be called.
Support TB3 at Victory Field
The story is so ugly, but the response has been so beautiful. Like the anti-bullying law in Terry’s name.
Greg Goff’s Purdue baseball program heard about TB3’s goal of playing for the Boilermakers and invited his parents to their April 28 game against Rutgers. Terry II threw the ceremonial first pitch. Khal Stephen, TB3’s buddy, started and earned the win.
Last week a box from West Lafayette showed up at the Badgers’ front door. There was a No. 44 Purdue baseball jersey for Terry. There was one Purdue letter-of-intent for Terry in a frame, and another awaiting his signature. Terry II has many copies of his boy’s handwriting. He plans to have someone else copy that signature – he can’t do it; he can barely talk about it – onto the Purdue letter-of-intent.
The St. Louis Cardinals, TB3’s favorite team, and will honor him before their game July 2 against the Yankees. They’ll have a No. 44 jersey for Terry III, invite the family onto the field before the game, and host a fundraiser for the TB3 Foundation.
No. 44 didn’t get to play this spring for Covington High, and now, No. 44 never will again. The baseball team retired the number.
And there’s the homestand this week at Victory Field, where for six games the Indians will encourage fans to sign an anti-bullying banner behind Section 109, with the following pledge:
I pledge to support others who have been hurt or harmed by acts of bullying. I will be the best teammate I can be to friends, family and others, regardless of our differences, to strike out bullying.
Fans can donate to the TB3 Foundation online or at the ballpark – near the banner behind Section 109 – and Indianapolis Indians Charities will match up to $4,400. That’s in recognition of Terry’s jersey number, the one chosen so long ago by his father, Terry II’s way of surviving the bullying he endured in the same town, in the same state and country and world, where it continues 30 years later.
Terry and Robyn get the letters. They hear the stories.
“It was overwhelming at first,” Terry II said of the mail triggered by this tragedy. “Man, it’s…”
Terry II’s voice catches, and not for the first time during the conversation.
“This stuff is happening all over the world – not just in Indiana, not just in Covington. It’s everywhere. It’s heartbreaking for us to hear these other stories of kids who went through the same thing as Terry, or are still going through it. We’ve had kids contact us from other schools, even from the school Terry went to. This stuff, it’s not over.”
It will never be over, but it can get better. House Bill 1483 is a step. You there, reading this story? Another step.
Show your kids these words, or better yet, show them a picture of Terry III, the power-hitting, heat-throwing phenom who loved to play baseball and loved to sing at weddings but didn’t love everything this world had to offer. No, he didn’t love it all.
Find IndyStar columnist Gregg Doyel on Twitter at @GreggDoyelStar or at www.facebook.com/greggdoyelstar.
How you can contribute to Indians anti-bullying campaign
The Indians play the Cubs the next six days at Victory Field. For ticket information, visit www.milb.com/indianapolis
Tuesday: 6:35 p.m
Thursday: 11:05 am
Fridays: 7:05 p.m
Saturdays: 6:35 p.m
more: Join the text conversation with sports columnist Gregg Doyel for insight, reader questions and Doyel’s peeks behind the curtain.
This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: He was bullied, now he’s gone, but TB3 will be honored by Indy Indians