Future Reflections Fall 1994, Vol. 13 No. 3



[PICTURE] Serena Cucco, back row, third from the left. Brother John Cucco, back row, second from the left; and dad, Bill Cucco, back row, second from the right

     From the Editor: At a local parents' seminar this past year a parent made the comment that her son had a hard time making sighted friends. All the other kids wanted to do, she said, was play sports or watch sports-especially baseball. After a few questions it became clear that both the mother and the son assumed that, because of his blindness, he simply would not be able to enjoy most sports-even as a spectator. Such is not the case, and I believe this mother left the seminar with a new understanding of the capabilities of the blind.

     Many blind adults and children are avid sports fans and faithfully attend the games of their favorite sports team. Some blind people compete in sports-sometimes with adaptations, sometimes without-others work out at the spa or Y, swim at the local community pool, go up to the mountains to ski on the weekends, sail, canoe, or just fool around with the guys shooting hoops. The enjoyment of sports by a blind child or adult should be based on personal preference and abilities-not stereotyped notions about blindness.

     But a blind child cannot develop a personal preference about sports if he or she has never had the opportunity to learn about them in a meaningful way. In the elementary grades the emphasis should be on learning the game, developing physical skills, understanding the value of teamwork, and having fun-not on competition. As the child gets older he or she may develop an interest in a particular sport or sports and join a competitive team either through school or through a community recreation program. Then again, he or she may decide to have nothing to do with sports, or may choose to be a spectator only. Either way, the decision must be grounded in meaningful personal experiences or it does not reflect a true choice.

     All of which brings us to "Serena's Baseball Chronicles." The name Serena may sound familiar if you read the article, "Making Whole Language Work," by her mother, Carol Castellano, on page 22 of this issue. Serena, it seems, has other interests besides reading and writing. Here is a note which Carol sent along with some material about, and from, Serena's Baseball Chronicles:
Dear Barbara,
     Enclosed are some items I thought you might find interesting. Serena has become a real sports fan over the past year and a half and has had some interesting sports experiences.  In the spring of her second grade year (1993), she kept a journal of different aspects of baseball, called "The Baseball Chronicles." "Adaptations for Integrating a Blind Kid into Little League" is from that journal. This past spring, Serena joined Madison Little League and had a great season on the T-ball team (see team photo). The third item is the result of a wonderful day spent with blind sports announcer Don Wardlow. The page from Baseball Weekly tells the story. Hope you can use some of this!   

       by Lisa Winston
   USA Today Baseball Weekly
       August 10-16, 1994
Serena Cucco, 10, of Madison, N.J., spent July 8 learning about baseball broadcasting firsthand.  Blind since birth, she's a self-sufficient kid-smart, confident, and sassy. She plays T-ball in Little League and is a sports nut, especially if it's a New York team.

She and her mom, Carol Castellano, traveled to Trenton to interview players and work alongside announcer Don Wardlow, who is also blind.

The players could not have been sweeter. New Britain Red Sox infielder John Malzone made a fan for life when he gave her nearly every piece of his equipment.

Serena's The Baseball Chronicles is a collection of her poems and essays on the teams she followed in 1993: the Mets, Yankees, and her parents' softball team, as well as general baseball themes. Here's one poem, "Daddy's Playing Baseball:"

               On the bleachers we are sitting
               Waiting for Daddy to be batting,
               A hit Daddy is getting,
               Around the bases he is running,
               With my hands I am clapping,
               Daddy's playing baseball,
               Summer is beginning.

[Serena's Interviews:]

Patrick Lennon, DF, New Britain Red Sox:
Who was your favorite team growing up?
     "I really didn't have a favorite team, but my father was a big Yankees fan so I had to watch them all the time."
What did you do for fun growing up?
     "For fun (in Wytheville, N.C.), I drove tractors. I had the best of both worlds-my mom lived in town where I could play baseball and stickball, and my dad was on the farm where I could play with the animals."
What's the least fun part of baseball?
     "The road trips in the minor leagues, riding on the buses for eight or nine hours at a time. When you get older, it cramps your back and legs a little."

Tony Clark, 1B, Trenton Thunder
What age were you when you wanted to be a pro baseball player?
     "Well, actually, I was kind of hard-headed, and I couldn't decide what I wanted to do because I played basketball and baseball. So I didn't make up my mind until last year."
What is fun about baseball?
     "That we can actually come out here every day and make a living playing. You can't beat it."
Is there anything that isn't fun about baseball?
     "When you come out and you're feeling sore and things aren't going well, and you've gotta come out here and play anyway. You can't call in sick."

Players Hand Over Their Observations and Their Gloves
by Serena Cucco

Can you imagine going into the actual dugout, sitting on the bench, and talking to real professional baseball players?   

It all began when our sportswriter friend, Lisa Winston, found out I wanted to be a radio sportscaster when I grew up. Lisa contacted sports announcer Don Wardlow of the New Britain Red Sox and arranged for me to follow Don around to see how a color commentator prepares for a game. It just happens that Don Wardlow is blind, and so am I!

On July 8, we went to the team hotel (in Trenton, N.J.) to meet Don, his partner Jim Lucas, and Gizmo, the Wonder Dog, who is Don's guide dog.

Jim recorded the stats on tape, and then Don listened to the tape and Brailled the stats he wanted on his Braille writer. Don let me listen to the tape along with him through earphones. We felt pleased that we could both read Braille.

Soon it was time to go to the ballpark. Jim and Don packed all their things in what they called "the world's heaviest bag."

When we arrived at Mercer County Waterfront Park, we went to the press booth. Don figured out the batting averages with his talking calculator and wrote them on his Braille writer.

I thought of the questions I would ask the players I was going to interview, and Don Brailled them out for me.

When we arrived in the Red Sox dugout, I talked to John Malzone, a player who had just gone on the DL. John put his own hat right on my head, tossed his batting gloves into my lap, and showed me his batting helmet, fielding glove, and bat. It was exciting!

Then I interviewed Patrick Lennon, the center fielder for the Red Sox, and Tony Clark, the Thunder's first baseman.

Don and Jim played the interviews on the pregame show. I listened to the whole game on giant earphones so I could hear them announcing.

During the game, Patrick Lennon hit a home run! The final score was 6-1, Trenton.
(This is what was published in the USA Today Baseball Weekly. The following item is from Serena's Baseball Chronicles.)

by Serena Cucco

1. Use a tee. You have to use a tee for a blind kid cause a blind kid can't see a pitched ball coming.
2. Taking the field with a helper. The coach can stand behind the blind kid and position him or her to make the catch.
3. Run the bases with a coach. You have to run with a coach because in a real game of baseball, the first baseman is trying to catch the ball and tag the batter out, and the blind kid can't see the ball or the person coming.
4. You have to have a flexible coach who is willing to make these adaptations.