A Swing and a Hit In celebration of Better Hearing and Speech Month, an SLP takes people with communication disorders out to the ballgame. In the Limelight
Free
In the Limelight  |   May 01, 2015
A Swing and a Hit
Author Notes
  • Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org
    Shelley D. Hutchins is content producer/editor for The ASHA Leader. shutchins@asha.org×
Article Information
ASHA News & Member Stories / Language Disorders / In the Limelight
In the Limelight   |   May 01, 2015
A Swing and a Hit
The ASHA Leader, May 2015, Vol. 20, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.20052015.22
The ASHA Leader, May 2015, Vol. 20, 22-23. doi:10.1044/leader.LML.20052015.22
Name: Benjamin Reece, MS, CCC-SLP
Title: Speech-language pathologist, Manteca (California) Unified School District
Hometown: Linden, California
“George” had been an Oakland A’s season-ticket holder since he was a kid, but when he had a stroke, he stopped going to the games. “He was nervous about accessibility,” says speech-language pathologist Benjamin Reece.
Last May, George went back to the ballpark for the first time in eight years as part of Better Speech and Hearing Night at the Ballpark, an event Reece coordinated for people with communication disorders.
Left: Benjamin Reece poses with a student who’s attending his first baseball game and will soon be working in the announcer’s booth. Right: Engineers integrated that same student’s bilateral cochlear implants into the radio system in the booth, where he gets tips from the Stockton Ports’ radio announcer.
Reece is an active member of the California Speech-Language-Hearing Association and is its District 3 Commissioner on Legislation and Advocacy as well as an ardent baseball fan. Four years ago, he was contemplating ways to promote Better Hearing and Speech Month. It occurred to him that May was also the start of baseball season, so he began spit-balling ideas to celebrate BHSM at a game. A regular at games of the Stockton Ports—an Oakland Athletics minor-league affiliate—Reece noticed other organizations bringing groups and getting special perks.
He talked with his CSHA advisory committee about organizing a similar event for BHSM and they gave him the green light. And that’s how Better Speech and Hearing Night at the Ballpark was born. A committee member’s husband, who works for Major League Baseball, set up a meeting for Reece to share his two goals for the event with Luke Reiff, Stockton Ports general manager:
  • Recognize and celebrate the hard work of consumers in overcoming communication disorders.

  • Increase public awareness of communication disorders and the fields of audiology and speech-language pathology.

At every event, participants throw out the first pitch, announce starting lineups and sign the National Anthem—and one or two sit in the radio booth to help call the game. Plus, the group leads the entire stadium in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.

“Reiff had really interesting ideas for getting participants involved and helping people look forward to the night each year,” Reece says. At every event, participants throw out the first pitch, announce starting lineups and sign the National Anthem—and one or two sit in the radio booth to help call the game. Plus, the group leads the entire stadium in “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
To raise awareness about communication sciences and disorders professionals, the team delivers PSAs throughout the game, lists Better Speech and Hearing Night on the tickets, and provides an information table in the stadium.
Expanded effort
Reece launched similar events with the Modesto Nuts, a Colorado Rockies minor-league affiliate, and the Oakland A’s. He also works with other CSHA district representatives who want to put together nights like this. “I’m happy to help other groups,” Reece says, “and if we can get this thing to go national that would be a dream come true.”
It’s not such a far-fetched idea. “It’s really not a hard sell,” he says. “Baseball teams are fantastic to work with. They love getting involved in their community, and even the Oakland A’s are impressed with our groups of 500.”
Reece says that 500 tickets for each game is big enough to be noticed and still be manageable. Teams offer discounted prices, but the group coordinators must find sponsors to pay for the tickets so students and clients can go with their entire families for free. Reece originally offered two tickets per client, but wasn’t getting responses. “The advisory committee and I figured out that people overcoming speech-language and hearing problems have a huge support system,” he says, “so now we e-mail CSHA members and ask them to determine who needs however many tickets.”
That process makes it easier to identify who will benefit from the experience and simplifies distribution. Reece offers general recommendations for who should receive tickets and emphasizes that they should be reserved only for people who will definitely use them.
Compelling stories
And those participants’ stories are compelling. At the first BSHN, for example, the young man who announced the starting lineup had a traumatic brain injury a year earlier that had rendered him unable to communicate. That same night, the kid who threw the first pitch had been the random victim of a drive-by shooting and went on to finish high school. And the stories go on: “A student with bilateral cochlear implants worked in the announcer’s booth one year,” Reece says. “The team’s engineers worked and worked until they got him connected into their radio system.”
At this year’s event, Reece hopes to have someone who uses an augmentative and alternative communication system do some announcing, and he’s trying to get an Oakland A’s player to support the cause.
“Many of the attendees have never been to a game,” Reece says, explaining that many parents fear getting to the game and having a child melt down. Some just can’t afford to take the whole family. Or, like George, some people stop attending games because they think an acquired disorder will lessen their enjoyment.
“I think personal invitations inspire George and others to give it a try,” Reece says. “We really work hard on these events, but it’s so rewarding to hear stories like his and see the smile on his face after getting to go back to something he loves.”
2 Comments
May 6, 2015
Derek Isetti
Amazing!
What an incredible program! I hope that other SLPs follow suit so that events like this could take place at a national level. Well done Mr. Reece!
May 6, 2015
Jill Duthie
Best idea ever!
This is the best, most inclusive event for BHSM! It's a win-win for the consumers and their families, and for the baseball leagues. Great idea!!
Submit a Comment
Submit A Comment
Name
Comment Title
Comment


This feature is available to Subscribers Only
Sign In or Create an Account ×
FROM THIS ISSUE
May 2015
Volume 20, Issue 5