Hello everyone, it’s been a couple of months since I have written anything but as you all know not every day is worth writing home about. I do however have an amazing story to tell about what has been happening the past couple of months. Six months ago I picked up a baseball bat for the very first time in my life never knowing that the game of beep baseball ever existed. I thought it would be fun to have something to do over the weekend and for me to get some exercise, little did I know where I would end up just a few months later. I can now proudly say that I have played in my first beep baseball world series, yes you read that right world series. 19 teams from all over the country including Canada and the Dominican Republic took part in the annual Beep Baseball World Series, which was held in Tulsa, Oklahoma this year. More than 200 blind and visually impaired players made their way to Oklahoma to spend a week on the field to make their mark and to set their place in the rankings. My home team the SGV Panthers weren’t able to raise enough funds this year to get the entire team out to compete in the World Series but I was invited to play with a team from Philadelphia called the Philly Fire.
I was absolutely terrified going into this adventure as this would be the first time that I would travel unassisted to a unknown destination where I would meet up with total strangers, and spend a week playing baseball with a team I knew nothing about. My anxiety levels leading up to my departure date to Oklahoma were in the red so I decided to go out and break down the barriers that were holding me back from just enjoying this adventure I was going on. One random Thursday afternoon I requested an Uber and drove to a random bar a couple of miles away from my house where I knew I would know no one just to see how it would all play out. This way I would still have the reassurance that if anything went wrong at least there were a couple of people that I could call if something did go wrong. The driver dropped me off outside the place, I found my way inside and was promptly helped by the bartender to a chair where I celebrated this small victory with an ice cold one. This might not make sense to some of you but just doing something simple as that gave me the confidence and courage to know that I would be okay traveling 1200 miles away from everything and everyone I knew in America. My safe place. The day of my departure came along and my beautiful wife greeted me at the airport and wished me luck on my adventure. This would be our first time apart from each other since moving to America so it was kind of a big deal for the both of us. When traveling unassisted as a blind person you can request travel assistance from almost any airline where you will be helped to navigate through the airport from the check-in desk, through security, right onto the aircraft so I was not too worried about that. The fun part would start when I landed in Tulsa, Oklahoma. When I arrived there I was escorted from the aircraft, through the airport terminal, straight to baggage claim where an airport attendant help me retrieve my bag then guided me outside to the curb side where I would need to wait for the hotel shuttle. From here on out I was on my own. This all went smoothly as I had pre-arranged with the hotel when to expect me at the airport. The shuttle drove me over to the hotel, I got my room key and then I met my new team mates for the first time. From the get go I knew I was going to have a blast as everyone was friendly and real fun to be around from the moment we met.
From that moment on it was all baseball for the entire week ahead. Some days we spent more than 9 hours out on the fields, in the blistering heat with average temperatures in the hundreds about 35/37 degrees Celsius and some days being evacuated off the field because of the storm sirens going off. Philly Fire ended up ranking 12th in the World Series and one of our teammates Mike, receive the prize as the third best defensive player in the series and one of my fellow SGV Panthers players Bee, received the prize for rookie of the year.
2019 Philly Fire World Series team photo
I know I’m not alone when I say this but I definitely feel this experience was more than just baseball, it was a week where blind and visually impaired people could just be themselves and have fun with no one judging them or criticizing them. It was a week where you could make mistakes, get lost, walk into stuff and just laugh about it all, because you were surrounded by hundreds of other people doing exactly the same thing.
A visual information company called Aira opened their hearts and sponsored their services by making the host hotel a free access location for the entire week that we were there. How it works is you download the Aira application onto your mobile device you register for free then you can call up a trained professional via video call to help you with any task at hand, be it reading a menu at the restaurant, helping you enter the combination to unlock your suitcase, finding a missing shoe, identifying the right uniform to wear on game day or even just to tell you that your hair looks good. This service helped me out a lot as I used it some days just to find my way around the hotel walking to the breakfast room or going outside the hotel to meet up with some friends. Today the 14th of August, Aira has announced that you do not need to have a paid subscription to make use of their services anymore, all calls under 5 minutes are now free for all customers.
The whole trip was such a freeing experience and I heard from a number of other people that the world series is like their vacation once a year. Something they look forward to and save up for so that they can have the best experience. I am also one of those people that cannot wait for next year’s World Series, to go back and meet up with all the new friends I have made that week. I must say I was really glad when it was all over because I was missing my beautiful wife so very much and I wish she was there with me to join in the great experience. Now I’m back in Los Angeles and have started a new round of testing with the Orion cortical device. I went back to the CTRC, the clinical research and translation center where we are trying out some new things to further develop and refine the device. We’ve already made progress with just one session there by adding some more of my electrodes back into the mix. I’m excited to see what will happen in the sessions to come.
If I had to share one lesson that I learned about this entire adventure it would be that when you feel like you are stuck and afraid to move forward just take a few steps back to put things in perspective. Sometimes you just need to see things from a different viewpoint to see how to move forward. There will always be a way to move forward even if you have to turn around just keep moving and enjoying life!
Don’t quit, do it!
I still haven’t told you guys about our 4th of July trip to the Grand Canyon and our first experience on a cross country train so I will be writing about that in the next blog.
Thanks for reading.
Love Jason and Sue