Field of dreams for deaf children

10:00 PM, Jul 6, 2011   |    comments
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By Mike Bush

St. Peters, MO (KSDK) - The sounds of baseball are the rhythm of the season. Like an iTunes store for our memories, the melody has been downloaded for more than 100 years. Every summer, those sounds can be heard by anyone passing by these fields in St. Peters, Missouri but not by the players on them.

"He was diagnosed actually on the first day he was born," said Sheldon Gasee.

Like every kid here, 10-year old Rueben Gasee is hearing impaired. And like every kid here, he loves the game.

That's why they all signed up for the Mike Bush Fantasy Baseball Camp for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"Since the first minute I came here, I liked it," said Rueben.

More than 50 campers spend the week learning the game from almost as many volunteer coaches, including former St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Scott Cooper. With the help of interpreters, his message comes through loud and clear.

"He was saying it was very important to balance the way you pivot your heel," said 12-year old Brett Crews through an interpreter. "The way you turn your shoulder your chin should be back with it."

"They're really good at understanding and picking up exactly what I wanted to say," Cooper said.

The camp started more than 20 years ago because of a deaf eight-year old boy who loved baseball and just didn't have anywhere to play.

"They get to learn baseball, they get to have fun and they get to be like everyone else who is just like them," said camp director Cari Hampton.

In the game of life, when you're deaf, you don't always feel a part of the team. Acceptance is what brought Bryan Jackson here as an eight-year old camper and why it keeps him coming back, now as a 20-year old counselor.

"It's a place where you can gather to just have fun and you can encourage other people to feel accepted and maybe just bring a little more hope to their lives," said Jackson.

It may have started small but the camp now has a big league reputation. Saul Gevarter believes it is special enough to make the trip all the way from Fremont, California where he's a teacher at the California School for the Deaf.

"It's important to have pier support. To be together so they can feel part of a community. It doesn't happen very often," said Gevarter through an interpreter.

Many of these kids have had to overcome a lot in their young lives. Rueben had several complications when he was born in addition to hearing loss. So when his dad found out there was a place where Rueben could forget about his disability and focus on his ability, they made the trip from Toronto, Canada.

"He's grown up to be such a great regular kids with great friends and comes to a place like this, it's fantastic," said Sheldon Gasee through tears.

It's scheduled for one week every year but for those who attend, this camp and it's message last much longer.

"Whoever you are that's you," said Rueben Gasee. "It doesn't matter if you have hearing loss, doesn't matter if you have glasses, it doesn't matter if you have something."

All that matters here is that you have fun.

Baseball is a team sport and everybody here seems to feel that they're part of a winning team and that's a language that anyone can hear.



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