Personality Profile: DJ Gregory

Over the past few years I’ve learned about various individuals with cerebral palsy whose stories help inspire me to keep pursuing my own ambitions. The first inspirational injection came in late 2009 before I even setup a Google Alerts email for the term “cerebral palsy.” My aunt forwarded  me the following video:

What do you think? I’m not a golf fan but DJ Gregory’s story still grabbed my attention because I could relate to so many of the things discussed in the video. Since eight years old I’ve held  a passion for baseball but I never played Little League at my parents’ request. If you’ve read my book Off Balanced, you know why. 🙂

Anyways, I empathize with Gregory’s love for sports but inability to play them. While I’m not into golf, I do enjoy the opportunity to play ping pong or go bowling. However, I’d describe my skill level at these activities the same way DJ describes his golf game, “It sucks.” Still, just participating in physical activity provides certain fulfillment.

Bowling balls at a bowling ally

I went bowling last year on my birthday and my highest score was 45. The alcohol in my system might have helped contribute to my low scores though. 😉

Moving on I became further impressed with DJ Gregory when my Google Alerts “cerebral palsy” emails brought the golfer’s disability advocacy efforts to my attention. In 2009 Gregory started the Walking for Kids charity. His charity aims to raise funds for different children’s activities. For instance DJ Gregory donated $26,000 to Ability First, a sports camp for kids with disabilities. For details on Walking for Kids visit

Finally, you’ll notice on the website DJ Gregory, like me, is a published author. I have not read Gregory’s book Walking with Friends but out of eight Amazon customer reviews the book averages four stars out of five. Walking with Friends details Gregory’s adventures on the PGA Tour.


Book News: Extra, Extra, Read All About It!

Fenell anything but 'Off Balanced'

The Sun Messenger ran an article about Off Balanced Thurs. Feb. 23rd.

Let me apologize in advance for the horribly cliche title to this post. In my eagerness to share Jeff Piorkowski’s Sun Messenger piece about me I proved too lazy to put thought into a better one. Please forgive me, :).

The Sun Messenger reaches Gates Mills, Highland Heights, Lyndhurst, Mayfield Heights, Mayfield Village, Richmond Heights, and South Euclid. Considering I grew up in South Euclid, getting featured in The Sun Messenger means a lot. Along with my two brothers I’m the third generation of my family to graduate from Charles F. Brush High School and I remained in South Euclid for college, choosing to attend Notre Dame College. I guess you could say I’m a good old South Euclid boy.


Jeff Piorkowski’s story on me went live on Sunday, Feb. 26th under the subtitle “South Euclid man writes book about experiences growing up with cerebral palsy.” Enjoy the read!

Book News: Positive Reviews Continue

I’m thrilled to sit here at my computer and share with you that my book Off Balanced continues to receive strong reviews, the latest of which coming from bloggers Sarah (Stand Tall Through Everything) and Tina (Living with Cerebral Palsy). Sarah begins her review confessing

“I’m not good at giving honest reviews of things like books, movies, TV shows, etc. Actually I can manage the honest part; it’s the in-depth & detailed parts I have trouble with. So when I was asked to review Off Balanced (available on Nook or Kindle) by Zachary Fenell I figured I’d give reviewing another shot.”

I found Sarah’s review well written so I’m glad she gave reviewing another chance. And no, I’m not just saying that because Sarah says about Off Balanced “It’s rare to find a book that’s so relatable yet so different from your own life that you want to keep reading & see it through to the finish. But this is one of those rare books.”  Read Sarah’s complete review- Off Balanced: A Review.

Amazon Kindle

Do you own a Kindle or Nook? Have you purchased Off Balanced yet?

Moving on, Tina also found Off Balanced relatable. She writes “I don’t want to squeal and give the book away, before you have a chance to read it. Let’s just say, it brought back memories, both good and bad, from eons ago.” If you want more details on what’s in Off Balanced I suggest you visit where the podcast from Vicki Niswander’s interview with me is now up. Vicki and I talk in detail about my book’s contents.

Anyways back to the reviews, here’s a link to Tina’s full review Off Balanced: A Good Read. To end today’s post I leave you with these words from Tina’s review:

“The Kindle edition is only $5.99. It is a good and quick read. And . . . I can just about guarantee you will want him to get busy on that sequel!”

*Pesky Blogger’s Note: Off Balanced can also be purchased for the Nook at the $5.99 price tag.

Debunking Misconceptions: Athletes with Disabilities Can’t Have Talent

A few days ago I read this story from The Sacramento Bee, “Disabled Student Sues to Play High School Baseball.” The story talks about high school student David Barker suing his high school so he can play junior varsity baseball. According to the article Barker is deaf and has cerebral palsy but has played baseball since he was nine years old, including playing for his school’s freshman baseball team. Yet school officials informed David he couldn’t play at the junior varsity level. The following reader comment from tobeetobee really grabbed my attention and motivated today’s post-

“Yeah right…like every student gets to be on the team because they want to be on it…”

Two other readers liked this comment. Personally the statement disturbs me because the thinking infers athletes with disabilities can’t have talent. To anyone who wants to argue with me I can make a strong case with one name, Jim Abbott. Are you getting ready to ask, “Who is Jim Abbott?” Let me waste no time on educating you. Jim Abbott pitched in the major leagues from 1989 to 1999, compiling a career 87-108 record and 4.25 ERA.   He finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting in his initial major league season and placed third in the AL Cy Young Award voting during the 1991 season. (Click here for more statistics) Jim Abbott accomplished all this despite being born with a deformed right arm. Rick Swaine describes the deformity on behalf of Society for American Baseball Research (SABR).

“Abbott’s right arm ends about where his wrist should be. He doesn’t have a right hand, just a loose flap of skin at the end of his underdeveloped arm.”

Jim Abbott

Born without a right hand retired MLB pitcher Jim Abbott defied possibilities. Photo: Paul Morse/Wikimedia Commons

Reading Swaine’s SABR biography on Jim Abbott reveals Abbott enjoyed success on every level of baseball he played despite skepticism surfacing Abbott would become outmatched by his competition. A decade in the majors goes to show the skeptics wrong. Now, I’ll admit majority of athletes with disabilities will likely fail to rival Abbott’s talent but the least we can do as a society is give athletes with disabilities the opportunity to fail. So to bring this post full circle, I hope we can judge David Barker by his skills as a baseball player and not the label “disabled athlete.”



Book News: Interviews

Today I’m happy to share with my readers news on some interviews I’ve been doing to help promote my book Off Balanced. As I mentioned in my last “Book News” post January 28th Able Pathways’ Rob Pritts recently interviewed me. The Able Pathways podcast featuring our interview is now live on the show’s website. Beyond Off Balanced, we discuss disability awareness in general and dating with a disability. I will actually be providing a guest blog post to the Able Pathways website soon expanding on the topic of dating with a disability. Of course when that is done and up I’ll post a link here. For now listen to our interview. Also, feel free to search through Rob’s four seasons of archived shows.

Able Pathways logo PrtSC

I had a great time on the Able Pathways show talking to Rob Pritts.

Moving on, Vicki Niswander from the east central Illinois radio show Disability Beat interviewed me earlier this week about Off Balanced. We thoroughly discussed my book so listeners will get a great idea of what my teenage memoir contains. The interview aired on WEFT Champaign 90.1 FM Wednesday, Feb. 8th. If you missed the broadcast, the podcast will become available on the Disability Beat website Saturday, Feb. 11th. Again, check back here at the Off Balanced blog for the upcoming link. A special shout out goes to Vince Staskel for helping to get the Able Pathways and Disability Beat interviews scheduled.

I’m also excited to announce reporter Jeff Piorkowski from my town’s local newspaper The Sun Messenger interviewed me Wednesday, Feb. 8th. The prospect of being featured in the neighborhood newspaper I’ve grown up with is incredibly awesome. Jeff and I discussed Off Balanced and my life story in general. Yes, I realize those two topics overlap a lot. 🙂 I’m under the impression Jeff’s story on me will run in the Thursday, Feb. 16th Sun Messenger but I have yet to confirm this. Don’t fret though, I’ll keep you updated.



Debunking Misconceptions: Paralympics/Special Olympics Confusion

Today I wish to discuss  a misconception of sorts which I came across the past couple months covering the Olympic beat for Yahoo! Sports. Perhaps’s Stephen Prendergast sums up this topic best when  he wrote in a recent article about the US Paralympic Team, “Many people confuse the Paralympic Games with the Special Olympics, but the two are quite different.” The Special Olympics website provides a helpful guide examining the differences, “Special Olympics and Paralympics: What’s the Difference?”

For your convenience I’ll highlight the main points, at least  as I see them. The Special Olympics contain a welcoming philosophy based  on participation. Eligibility requires “athletes must have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay, or a development disability.” Those eight years of age  and older can partake. The Paralympics  prove more intense, requiring athletes to meet certain qualifying standards just like the Summer and  Winter Olympics. Basically only the elite disabled athletes compete at the Paralympiccs.

The Paralympic Flag

The Paralympic Flag waves proudly in the air. Photo: Wikimedia Commons user Scazon

I stumbled across the Paralympic topic after my good friend 2012 U.S. Olympic hopeful (in race-walking) Michael Mannozzi suggest I  interview Paralympic swimmer Daniel Kamber for an article. Kamber represented the United States at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens, Greece and hopes to do the same this time around in London, England. Learn all about Daniel Kamber with my article “Introducing 2012  Paralympic Hopeful Daniel Kamber.” In order to create interview questions for Kamber I needed to research specifics about the Paralympics and that’s when I became wowed  by the Paralympics’ intensity. I wrote “A Closer Look: The Paralympic Movement” for Yahoo! Sports in hopes to raise awareness about the Games. Please do your part and pass along the article to your friends and family. (Thanks! :))

All in all I feel spreading the word about the Paralympics  serves as an important task. People in the disability community need to know not only can you participate in sports, you can excel in them. Overall athletics offers a  great opportunity for comradery, something as my book Off Balanced (quick plug ;)) illustrates can be difficult for individuals with disabilities to obtain.