When I was a kid I used to travel solo by plane to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to then ride with my grandparents to Lancaster, PA, where I would stay for roughly 8 to 10 weeks with them. This meant that every year close to ¼ of the 12 months were spent for me on the East coast, and we would almost each visit make a trip to Hampton, Virginia, to stay with my uncle and his family. I grew up with very fond affinity for the East coast and its dampness, its spread of green grasses, its soft trees, and my favorite, the squirrels. The reason I mention my yearly visits to the East coast is because that is how I fell in love with the Philadelphia Phillies. In the mid- and late-80s, and the early-90s, there was no professional baseball team in Arizona; people were mostly fans of the Chicago Cubs (Tucson has a strong connection with the Cubs after many Chicago residents setup camp in desert a 30 or so years ago) or the LA Dodgers. My trips to Pennsylvania brought me in contact with an amazing team in the Phillies. Because they are Eastern Pennsylvania’s team us in Lancaster were able to watch every single game, home or away, on the television. Those games became heaven for me as I sat there next to either my Granny or my Poppop and we three would watch together in total joy.
The connection this has for me with Gallaudet is that this previous Major League Baseball season the Philadelphia Phillies won the 2008 World Series and I was able to be very close to the action in a proximity sense (couldn’t afford to travel to Philly). Also, because of where Gallaudet is located the university enrolls many more students from the East and Midwest than it does from the West or South, so one finds more fans of teams from areas related to the higher enrollment. I’ve been able to meet about a dozen Philadelphia sports fans, some are all about baseball, others football, and fans of basketball and hockey from there. A small group of us formed and gathered almost daily to watch the Phillies climb to the top, using the MLB.com account I had or catching the games televised when the Washington Nationals played against the Phils. I deeply enjoyed and looked forward to this time with my newfound friends. And one of the great things about live sports is that it is something to divert attention to and can allow for new forming bonds between people to build gradually and over something shared; the stress to say the right things or to impress or to insure you are using a language correctly all of these diminish or become lessened at least.
So for my first semester back in college and it being at a place using another language, baseball brought forth something to make the adjustment less difficult and instead more exciting. I was able attend four games at the Nationals stadium when the Phillies were in town to play. These are all experiences I couldn’t have, or at least not very often, while out West (have seen the Phillies at Petco Park in San Diego and Chase Park in Phoenix, but only once each and separated by years). It’s also impressive to me that the timing was so right for when I became deaf, would orchestrate a decision process for how to handle the deafness, and then enroll and join Gallaudet only to find I’m in a perfect place for feeling close to my favorite team. I had periodically thought about ways to temporarily leave Arizona for the East coast, to see it, to experience it, and to possibly reconnect with places I’d long since left. Never thought it would be the onset of deafness that would provide that opportunity but, you know, if the thing that is going to bring you somewhere turns out to be deafness that is not the worst of things that can happen to a person. Thankfully, for this disability, there lies the option of socializing with an entire community that shares familiarity with your predicament.
Well, the Phillies are on TV right now in a game versus the New York Mets. I’m going to continue watching them as I try to memorize material for two exams tomorrow. If you are a student considering a future in college, believe me, watching sports and studying do not mix well!! But some things are just too irresistible to pass up. 😀