by Tammy Parrett and Nikole Gianopoulos
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Christopher Morgan steps up to the plate, bat poised and ready to swing. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. The coaches step back and grin, “Okay, Christopher. Hit it!” He swings his bat and with a thud, the ball is launched across the field. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Following only the sound of the beeping, Christopher charges after his ball and picks it up in his hands. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. He carries his ball back towards home plate and grabs his walking stick. He is ready for lunch.
Christopher Morgan was born blind. However, he has never been a victim to his condition. Growing up in a sports-oriented family, Christopher is constantly moving. He loves to shoot his basketball, swing his bat and run. His father played baseball in college, and his older brothers also played the game as they were growing up. When his mother, Tee Buttone, contacted the College of Education’s Comprehensive Community Clinic and asked them about registering Christopher for their Fantasy Baseball Camp, she had no idea that she would be received so well.
“Because it was an educational-based camp, I think they were okay with accepting a teachable moment,” she says. “This whole idea is about teaching and learning, and so it just fits that it’s with a higher institution of learning. It’s about exposing children about the game of baseball, about the structure of the game itself.”
Tee contacted five other camps that were unable to accommodate Christopher’s condition before receiving a positive response from the Fantasy Baseball Camp. “I mean I could teach him if I really took the time to tell him, but I wanted him to learn and be around different kids.”
Christopher loved swinging the bat at camp, where he learned about baseball concepts like fly balls and striking out. After the first day of camp, Tee said Christopher was beyond excited to go back and learn some more. “Usually, when Christopher is excited, he does not sleep through the night,” she shares. “Christopher was up at 3 o’clock this morning because he was so excited. He couldn’t wait for the morning to come.”
When Tee reached out to Dr. Laura Smith, director of the CCC, she explained her situation, and without hesitation, Dr. Smith invited Christopher to the camp with open arms. “When she told me about Christopher’s condition, I did some research on which ball was the best, and the Sertoma club purchased it for the school to use,” says Dr. Smith.
The beep baseball used by Christopher was created by the Denver Beepball Group, a branch of Telecom Pioneers of America, a volunteer organization of retired telecommunications employees across the United States and Canada, and is the official ball of National Beep Baseball Association. The ball is about the size of a softball, and has a speaker on the side that emits a steady beeping sound when activated. It is the sound of the beep that guides the user to its location, allowing visually impaired players the same opportunities as others. The ball is a cost friendly investment that allows it to reach as many backyards as possible.
The Carroll County Sertoma Club has worked with the CCC to sponsor the camp for 10 years. “Jim Gill, one of our founding members saw that other areas were doing similar programs, and he suggested that we do it,” says Camp Director Charles Hodges, who works with the children to teach them the fundamentals of the game. “Our club decided to do a Fantasy Baseball Camp for hearing impaired children. It was originally for hearing impaired, but eventually it became for speech and hearing impaired children and we’ve been doing it ever since.”
Wolves’ baseball players work with the campers to practice the fundamentals of baseball, such as running, pitching, catching and hitting. They rotate stations and practice these skills with players and coaches. The CCC has also incorporated hearing and speech activities into the stations in the camp. In between stations, campers retreated to the dugout for a break, where they heard stories about baseball and used speech and hearing techniques to figure out the who, what, where and why of a story.
Anna and Jacob Nelson have attended the camp for two and three years, respectively. “It’s just a wonderful program,” says Lavenda Free, their grandmother. “It’s helped Jacob communicate, which is something he couldn’t do before. It impacted every part of his life, and he’s come a long way.”
“It’s great to collaborate with the community, the Sertoma Club, the baseball team along with their coaches, and receive their support,” adds Dr. Smith. “They provide the equipment; we couldn’t provide that without their collaboration. Each of us brought a different area of expertise, and to see all of that come together to benefit the children is just fabulous. She looks forward to possibly expanding the camp in the future and providing even more opportunities that will continue to benefit these children.”
For more information about the Comprehensive Community Clinic, visit their website at www.westga.edu/coe/index_1357.php.