Baseball Camp hits home run with deaf kids

ST. PETERS, Mo. - It's the time of year when the sounds of summer can be heard all over the country but not by the kids on these baseball fields in St. Peters, Missouri. This is the Mike Bush Fantasy Baseball Camp for the deaf and hard of hearing.

"We play baseball but it's so much more than baseball," explained Camp Director Cari Hampton.

Nine-year-old Harrison Beck is in his third year here.

"I've been hitting and catching. Practicing all my baseball skills," he said by sign language.

Harrison discovered a love for sports when he was just a toddler about the same time doctors discovered that he was deaf. His dad says, 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.

Still, like most children his dad says he 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," he said.

That's why, 25 years ago, this camp was started. For a week every summer, some 60 kids who often get singled out because of their disability get to standout because of their ability.

"I want them to feel, feel like they're special and they're important and they're just as important as everyone else," explained Hampton.

The camp has meant so much to so many kids that when they grow up they come back as volunteers.

"Coming here as a kid helped to make me feel better about myself because I was really shy about it," said 17-year-old Rachel McMurtrey.

McMurtrey was a camper for five years. She comes back now as one of more than two dozen volunteers, many of whom know sign language, because she wants these kids to feel 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."

And that feeling must be contagious. Because instead of watching his son from the sidelines, Harrison's dad is now also a volunteer coach.

"My job is pretty easy. I just to get to have fun with the kids," said Dan Beck.

"I feel awesome," explained Harrison. "It feels good to have friends. Many, many friends that are the same as me."

The camp only lasts a week, but it stays with these kids much longer.

"I've had kids and some of their parents tell me that this camp changed their lives," said Hampton.

Helping kids just be kids. At the Fantasy Baseball Camp it's a message that comes through loud and clear.

"He's at home," Dan Beck said of his son. "Makes me feel great."


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