Field of Dreams for deaf children

9:19 PM, Jul 1, 2010   |    comments
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By Mike Bush

(KSDK-St. Peters, MO) -- The sounds of baseball are the melody of an American summer.

The crack of the bat. The pop of the mitt. The cheering crowd.

What's sweet music to some however, cannot be heard by others.

In St. Peters, Missouri they're breaking the silence. On the fields behind City Hall is the Fantasy Baseball Camp. All the kids at camp are deaf, hard of hearing and passionate about the game.

"They're out here just loving the game of baseball, " said one observer.

For a week every summer, kids who spend the rest of the year dealing with their disability, get to standout because of their ability.

"I think one of the big things they always say is everyone here they're just like me, " says Camp Director Cari Hampton.

They learn the game from some of the top coaches in the area, including Scott Cooper. And when a former Cardinal talks, with the help of interpreters, these kids do listen.

"If they don't understand it they'll go right to their interpreter real quick. They have such enthusiasm to learn and that's why I love coming out here, " says a smiling Cooper.

This is 7 year old Ella Ferguson's first year at camp.

"I learned how to throw and catch and hit the ball, " she says.

"It makes me learn and it makes my dad proud of me."

14-year-old Erik Martin is a camp veteran. When he plays on his regular Little League team he says sometimes he feels different.

"I feel like I'm missing out on something, " he said. "Like when ever the coach yells at me, I don't hear him all the time. Just the thought of being with other kids who are hearing impaired just relaxes me."

This year the camp is celebrating it's 20th anniversary. It all started when a 7 year old little boy who couldn't play in the local leagues went to his dad and said I want to play baseball.

"To even think about these kids not having the opportunity to play baseball or softball or something like that. That hurts, " says Cooper.

Baseball lovers know that if you build it, they will come and over the years more than 1,200 kids have registered for this camp. And they've had the chance to meet some of the biggest names in St. Louis baseball. Like Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith and Lou Brock

"It's amazing to see 20 years later, this is what we've built, " says Hampton.

Now because it meant so much to some former campers are coming back to be counselors.

"This place is so special. It makes me feel special but not alone, " signed 23 year old Amber Rush to an interpreter.

"I feel I need to give back, " added 24 year old Richard Herzog through an interpreter. "And make a contribution to these kids."

The camp lasts just one week, but it clearly stays with these kids a lot longer.

"I'm really excited because next year I get to come back and be a volunteer, " said Martin.

Baseball is a team game and for any of us, there's nothing better than feeling like we're all on the same team. At the Fantasy Baseball Camp, it's a message that comes through loud and clear.

"It's in these guys hearts and girls hearts, " says Cooper. "They love being out here."



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