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July 1, 2005

Baseball camp for the deaf is a big hit for all involved

From: St. Louis Post-Dispatch - St. Louis,MO,USA - Jul 1, 2005

By John Sonderegger
Of the Post-Dispatch

How about some good news about good people today?

Aaron Holcombe, the young man who inspired a baseball camp that has helped teach baseball to more than 1,000 deaf children, returned to St. Charles County Monday to officially open this year's camp. Advertisement

After his appearance here, he planned a trip to Brazil, where he will teach deaf Brazilians the game of baseball as a part of the Global Youth Foundation, which is sponsored by noted author John Grisham.

Now 25, Holcombe was just 10 years old when he helped inspire the camp. He went on to become the first deaf student to make the Francis Howell High varsity baseball team, and then he graduated from the University of Alabama-Birmingham. He is working on his teaching certificate, and he and his wife, Misty, are involved in the Birmingham Deaf Church as youth leaders.

Aaron has done evangelistic youth work in Trinidad, Russia, Mexico and Venezuela. He was here to open the 15th anniversary of the Mike Bush Fantasy Baseball Camp for the Hearing Impaired. In 1991, camp founder Ed Watkins was shocked to learn that there wasn't a place for deaf children to go to learn the game of baseball.

"Baseball is a difficult enough challenge to learn for those of us who can hear," Watkins said. "Over the years, we've had some of the greatest names in baseball and over a thousand volunteers work to make this dream happen for children all over the country. People like Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Stan Musial, Ozzie Smith, Joe Torre and others have given unselfishly of themselves to make this camp happen. And of special interest to the children was the visit by the last two deaf players to play major league baseball, Curtis Pride and Dick Sipek. But Aaron Holcombe is arguably the role model celebrity for current and future generations of deaf boys and girls who will learn America's pastime."

The camp is named for Mike Bush, the KSDK-TV news anchor who was moved by the children when he did a feature story on the first camp, called the "Field of Dreams."

After the story, Bush got his station to invest in captioning, which was a major victory for the deaf community, Watkins said. The camp is named for Bush "because he, more than anyone, is responsible for encouraging the over 2,000 volunteers who have made the camp possible since its inception," Watkins added.

The camp ran all week on the ballfields behind St. Peters City Centre.

Columnist John Sonderegger

© 2005 St. Louis Post-Dispatch