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Disability

Good Intentions Gone Bad

The article below was reported on May 5, 2009 by WSBT television in South Bend Indiana and has received wide distribution on the internet.  It illustrates how good intentions often produce unhealthy outcomes.  As you read the article, please notice that every person involved in the story wanted to be positive, say yes and empower this nine year old boy.  However, as you read the article, also ask yourself whether the end result was really healthy, either for Cameron, or for his community.

What actual purpose did/does he serve on the team?

Wasn’t it a bit of gratuitous nonsense to call him the “team manager?”

What benefit is there in giving him a title without a real purpose?

Why was he unable to throw the ball to the catcher–surely blindness doesn’t create weakness does it?

If we’re ever going to create a world in which disability is thought of as a normal part of life, don’t we have to begin by treating people as more than potted plants?

Finally, doesn’t this article just drip with a complete lack of faith that this kid will ever be able to do something useful?  Doesn’t it really say, “We really ought to make him feel good because he won’t have much of a life otherwise?”

And, isn’t it sad that his mom knows so little about the possibilities that thousands of blind people are living every day?

I insert my comments into the story in brackets. []

Blind baseball player “hears” his dream come true on local Little League team

by Troy Kehoe (tkehoe@wsbt.com)

Story Created: May 5, 2009 at 8:13 PM EDT

Story Updated: May 5, 2009 at 10:43 PM EDT

EDWARDSBURG — Tears of joy flowed in Edwardsburg as history was made on the baseball diamond. A Little League hopeful who thought he’d never be able to be a part of the team finally “heard” his dream come true. It was a party on the diamond, as Edwardsburg Little Leaguers celebrated the “official” addition of a new teammate. But this baseball player isn’t like anyone you’ve ever met before.

To say Cameron Beaver is a “baseball fanatic” might be putting it mildly. As far as 9-year-olds go, you’d be hard pressed to find a bigger fan.

“He’s very upbeat and very energetic. And he just makes everybody around the park excited too,” said Edwardsburg Little League President Pat Maloney.  You have a tough time finding a better teammate or a more enthusiastic player, either.  Yes, you’d also be hard pressed to find any Little Leaguer quite like Cameron.  You see, Cameron can’t see.

Just a few months after he was born, he was diagnosed with “bi-lateral retinoblastoma”–a cancer of the retina. To keep the disease from spreading, doctors had no choice but to remove his eyes.  Cameron’s love of baseball, and his dream of someday playing quickly faded into fantasy.

“This year, he came out for the team with his older brother Aaron, and the first words out of his mouth were: coach, can I be on the team?” “And… what do you say, you know?” said Tony Gaideski, head coach of the Edwardsburg Little League’s Legends Restaurant Team.

So, imagine Cameron’s surprise when coach’s answer was, “yes!”

“I said, absolutely, Cameron! You’re on the team, buddy! No doubt about it!” Gaideski said.

Except there was doubt.

[Yes, there should have been doubt.  What would this kid do that was meaningful?  What team responsibilities could he take on?  Might he be a bat boy or ball boy?  Team score keeper?  How about asking blind adults to help figure out things he could do?]

Last year, Cameron “unofficially” joined the team. But, that was never approved in writing.  Little League safety rules for upper level teams like Aaron’s prohibit those with disabilities like Cameron’s from actually being on the field. So coach Gaideski asked Maloney for help. Maloney then asked Indiana District 14 Little League Administrator Marlin Culp for help.

On Tuesday night, it was official.  As team lineups were announced over the loudspeaker, there was one new name added at the end: Cameron Beaver.

The grinning 9-year-old emerged from the dugout with help from his coach, and took his place along the first base line.

[Why did he need help from his coach to go to the first base line?]

Then, things got even better.

“We’d like you to throw out the first pitch, Cameron,” said Maloney.

“All right!” replied Cameron, his tone more an exclamation than an answer.

The ball didn’t quite make the catcher’s glove, but that didn’t stop the crowd on hand from launching into a standing ovation.

[Perhaps if they had believed in this kid just a little they would have taught him to actually pitch the ball.]

“In my 32 years of Little League, I’ve never heard of anything like this,” Culp said during an address over the Little League stadium’s loudspeaker. “I’m glad we could make this happen.”

Cameron was too.

Clutching the baseball signed by League officials, the trophy for being the Edwardsburg Little League’s “volunteer of the year,” the brand new baseball cap and the major league all-star game pin he was presented with, his response was pretty simple.

“Look at all these prizes I got,” he said with a big grin. “It all makes me feel pretty special!”

[Special indeed.  No purpose on the team.  An audience wildly praising him for accomplishments that a five year old could accomplish.  What will this do to his expectations for himself?]

It made his mom Susan feel pretty special, too.

“This is awesome for Cameron,” said, wiping away tears. “He’s not usually a part of anything. And this is just awesome for him to be a part of this. Words can’t really describe it. He’s just so excited and happy. He loves it.”

[It’s telling that she says he’s not really a part of anything.  I wonder why?  Is it because he’s treated like a five year old at home so kids his age don’t want to play with him?]

Cameron’s response to that was, well, what Little League is really all about.

“I just felt good inside me,” he said with a laugh.

Then, when asked if he was excited about being an “official” part of the team, he paused for a moment.

“As a matter of fact, I am,” he said.

His jersey now reads “team manager,” and that’s exactly what he is.

[Team Manager??? That’s really disgraceful.  I suppose we’ll be working with him in a few years trying to help him find employment and he’ll be surprised to learn that you actually have to do something to earn money.]

“Every inning we come off the field, he’ll be the first one out of the dugout,” Gaideski said. “He leads the team cheer, and a lot of the players will actually argue about who gets to sit next to Cameron on the bench now.”

“At first sight, you wouldn’t even think he had a disability,” agreed Legends team assistant coach Josh Masten. “He’s just a good kid to have around.”

[That’s nonsense.  All of you know he has a disability.  In fact, you know it so well that you make up titles for him and have to help him to first base.  Don’t try to dress it up with some drivel about how you don’t think he has a disability.]

Now, he’s a good kid that will be around the game he loves. You don’t need to “see” that to believe it.

And there was one other bit of exciting news for Cameron Tuesday night.

Culp says Little League’s District 14 is developing an expanded “challenger program” that could allow Cameron to actually “play ball” on the field by “hearing” the ball as it comes to the plate.

“That would be the highlight of his life,” laughed Susan. “This will be hard to top. But, that would really be a dream come true.”

[Yes, there are actually beeping baseballs and leagues he could play in and do something requiring skill.]

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