Moving uneasily in his wheelchair, Expedito "Pedro" Lugo smiled and offered his left hand to a visitor today at Hampstead Hill Middle School.
"My leg still shakes a little, too, but I feel good," he said. He smiled again. He spoke slowly and in broken English, and often through a Spanish translator.
"What do you call this," he asked, placing his right hand on his left shoulder. "Yes, my shoulder is stiff, too. But I am happy to be alive."
And then he gave a thumbs-up.
Lugo, 24, who in May was severely beaten with his own baseball bat by three teen-agers, had asked to speak to the students to thank them for their concern. Today, about 500 students at the East Baltimore school, which is not far from Patterson Park, where the attacked occurred, attended a brief ceremony.
But Lugo, a native of the Dominican Republican, spoke little of the assault. Instead, he talked of feeling good and of getting better. He spoke of the cards and letters from strangers that were overwhelming and greatly appreciated.
And he spoke of his dream of perhaps one day playing baseball. "I think I might do that again," he said. "I want to do it again."
Lugo suffered severe head injuries and brain damage from the attack, which resulted in paralysis on his right side and impaired ability to speak and understand. For several weeks, Lugo was in a coma at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
After he regained consciousness, he was transferred to the Montebello Rehabilitative Hospital for speech, recreational and physical therapy.
He now lives at home but takes therapy at the Franklin Square Hospital four times a week.
Four teen-agers, none of them students at the school, have been charged with attempted first-degree murder, assault and deadly weapons violations in the attack.
Carlos Lopez-Rodriguez, a family friend and spokesman, said Lugo has improved tremendously since the attack. He said that four months ago, doctors were unsure whether Lugo was even going to live, much less walk.
However, Lugo today said that he can walk without the wheelchair, but his doctors urge him to use it until his right side has regained full mobility.
"Everything is better and getting better," Lugo said. "This is something that will get better."
At the school today, students read letters they wrote to Lugo recently. One letter urged him to hurry his recovery so that "maybe I'll see you on the baseball field."
James Reed recalled his days playing basketball with Lugo on the playground.
"Every now and then, you would let us use your basketball to play," Reed wrote. "Although you could not speak English, we understood you. I hope you get well soon so that we can play again."
The beating incident caused tension in the neighborhood surrounding Patterson Park, whose residents feel the students at Hampstead Hill are often unruly. Since the attack, the school's principal has been replaced and new dismissal policies have begun. But Lugo said he had no hatred or hard feelings toward anyone.
"I love you," he said, "no matter what color you are."