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June 8, 2006

Hearing-impaired children learn baseball, socialize with peers at summer camp

From: Villages Daily Sun, FL - Jun 8, 2006

THE VILLAGES — Festivities, and bats, were in full swing Wednesday at Saddlebrook Recreation Center for the second day of the Sertoma Fantasy Baseball Camp for hearing-impaired children.

It had all the appearances of a summer baseball camp, with plenty of Gatorade, sweaty kids and organized chaos — all of which would be familiar to any Little League grandma. Except for one difference:

The 57 young campers were all deaf or hearing-impaired. They came from across Central Florida to learn the fundamentals of baseball and socialize with their peers at the camp hosted by the Sertoma Club of The Villages.

One of the camp’s veteran participants, Megan Albertz, who will be a freshman at Citrus County High School in Inverness, said she is excited to be spending her fourth year at the camp.

As the granddaughter of a Villages resident, Albertz was no stranger to The Villages when she was approached to join the Fantasy Baseball Camp festivities.

“I was doing Intergenerational stuff four years ago, and this guy comes up ... and he noticed my hearing aid. And he introduced us to this camp — and we came,” Albertz said.

“I like talking to everybody (at the camp) because I don’t sign at all and it’s kind of interesting to see how much I can understand. And it’s kind of fun.”

Debbie Crocker, mother of two camp participants and one of the seven camp interpreters, has been working with the Fantasy Baseball Camp for the past five years and brought in some of the girls from Citrus County. Crocker explained that Albertz’s lack of signing is common in camps such as this one, and it just adds a different element to a rewarding job.

“A lot of these kids don’t really sign, so we do a lot of oral interpreting as well as sign interpreting,” Crocker said.

Crocker has two sons, Matthew and Sean, who have attended the camp each of the last five years.

“They like to hang out with the kids and socialize,” Crocker said. “ I think Matthew really enjoys helping the younger kids and teaching the basics of baseball because he loves the game.”

Dick Hoffman, the Sertoma Club president, who also sits on the Sumter County Commission, said he was elated to see the kids’ happy faces while coaching at the camp.

“I like to think it’s been helpful to them to get these kinds of opportunities,” Hoffman said, adding that some children at the camp had never played baseball before.

Hoffman was particularly thrilled about two new additions to the program.

“Two twins that I brought from Wildwood came in saying ‘can’t’ a lot, and now they are at least trying; at least they are doing it now and they are trying it.” he said. “That’s the greatest thing — to see the progress they made.”

Later in the day, the camp would host baseball games for the older children and a tee-ball game in the outfield for the younger campers.

The camp concludes today with more baseball games and a pizza party.

© 2006 The Villages Daily Sun