Updated 07/30/2012 08:31 AM
Athlete of the Week: Leander man brings smiles as Iowa Cubs bat boy
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When Richard Payton graduated from Leander High in 1998, his dream was to work for his favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. A few years later, he found a way when the Cubs top farm team started making Round Rock a regular stop.
When the Iowa Cubs come to the Dell Diamond, Payton puts on the uniform, reports to the clubhouse and has as much fun doing his job a possible.
For as long as the Cubs have visited the Round Rock Express he been Iowa's bat boy and he may be the biggest celebrity in the dugout.
"Everybody loves seeing me," Payton, a former Special Olympics athlete of the year, said.
As a lifelong Cubs fan growing up in Leander, Richard got the gig after sending a letter to the Chicago Cubs offering to help them however he could. Over the years he befriended many players and coaches while sharing his own scouting reports and advice.
"I like Ty, Ty Wright," Payton said.
"When you go to the plate he'll stop you before you do to the on- deck circle and say 'don't help the pitcher help your self'," Cubs outfielder Ty Wright said.
Wright is also one of Richard's many friends who treat Richard like part of the team.
"He's got the biggest heart of anybody. Anytime we come to Round Rock we get to see that big smile on his face, we lose a game we get to see the tears and when we leave we get to see the tears,” Wright said.
While he doesn't cheer for the Express while the Cubs are in town, Richard has his own way of rooting for home team.
"If you’re from the state of Texas, you're a favorite player no matter what," Tyler-native Wright said.
When Payton's favorite players reach home plate, Payton specializes in celebration.
"When they hit home runs I'll be so happy, big hugs, high five, knuckles, rubbing my hair," said Payton.
"Any time you hit a home run he's the first one to home plate to give you a big ole Richard hug,” Wright said.