Field of dreams for deaf players
Mike Bush Fantasy Baseball Camp in St. Peters, Missouri allows the deaf and hard of hearing to participate in the sport of the summer.
“We play baseball but it’s so much more than baseball,” said Camp Director Cari Hampton.
Nine-year-old Harrison Beck, who is attending for his third year, said by sign language, “I’ve been hitting an catching. Practicing all my baseball skills.”
About the same time the doctors discovered Harrison was deaf when he was a toddler, Harrison had discovered his love for sports. His dad even says that the diagnosis was actually a blessing.
“Before we just knew we had a kid that wasn’t talking, then we knew we had a deaf child,” said Dan Beck, Harrison’s dad.
Dan said that Harrison still, like most children, just wanted to fit in.
“It’s hard for a kid who can’t hear and talk like every other kid to join in a team sport,” said Dan.
This is the motivation behind the beginning of the camp twenty-five years ago. Now, every summer for a whole week, about sixty kids get to show their abilities rather than be held back because of their disabilities.
Camp Director Hampton stated, “I want them to feel, feel like they’re special and they’re important and they’re just as important as everyone else.”
Some children who grow up attending the camp even come back to volunteer.
17-year-old Rachel McMurtrey reflects, “Coming here as a kid helped to make me feel better about myself because I was really shy about it.”
McMurtrey attended the camp for five years and now volunteers along with more than two dozen others, several of them knowing sign language. McMurtrey wants the kids to feel like a part of a team.
“I’m trying to be a good role model to the kids,” she said. “They’ve been in my situation. I’m trying to show them that you’re not alone.”
Harrison’s dad, who feels the same way, is now a volunteer coach.
Dan Beck said, “My job is pretty easy. I just to get to have fun with the kids.”
“I feel awesome,” said Harrison. “It feels good to have friends. Many, many friends that are the same as me.”
Although the camp is only a week long, the memories and good experiences stick with the kids much longer.
Hampton stated, “I’ve had kids and some of their parents tell me that this camp changed their lives.”
The Fantasy Baseball Camp’s message is presented clearly throughout the week: Helping kids just be kids.
“He’s at home,” Dan Beck said of his son. “Makes me feel great.”
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