Regional Day School for the Deaf forms baseball team
It's America's pastime – with a few more signs. Lonestar, a new baseball team for deaf, hard of hearing children and their siblings launched earlier this summer, giving students a level-playing field in sign language.
Regional Day School for the Deaf teacher Isabel Montes has a deaf son so she understood the need for families like hers to have an athletic outlet. She started the process of creating a baseball team in April, and since then the team has flourished on and off the field.
"I used to be able to put in him in teams, but I had to be there to interpret for the coach and be on the field because there weren’t any teams for deaf children," Montes said. "I wanted to find a way to get our kids into sports in the summer because it's difficult for them. It's not the same as other kids because there is a language barrier."
Her son Gustavo Montes and coach Christian Cuellar lead team practice, teaching the students how to run plays.
"I picked baseball because sign language can go hand in hand with it since it's such a visual game," Montes said.
The students have not only improved their baseball skills but also their personal growth. The team plays against the Alta Vista Optimist Club, which has been instrumental in providing support for the fledgling team.
"The students have come a long way. Their confidence has grown 100 percent," Montes said. "They are so proud of themselves. They cheer everyone else on, and they are learning team dynamics."
Fourth-grader Madeline Madrid has really enjoyed playing baseball this summer.
"I like playing, especially batting," Madeline said. "I've made a lot of new friends."
The team welcomes deaf and hard of hearing children, as well siblings and children of deaf adults. Since students in the Regional Day School for the Deaf come from different parts of town, Montes picked MacArthur as a central location for all the families.
For parent Fabian Jasso, having his twin boys playing on the same team has been an amazing experience. Although they have been on other teams together, this experience has been much different.
"Julian is hearing impaired, but Angel is not. Angel did well, but Jesus was a little lost, especially when he couldn't understand the coaches," Jasso said. "He couldn't communicate."
Jasso has even seen a discernable difference in the twins' behavior at home.
"I like that they are on a team together as brothers. It's good for them," Jasso said. "It's a great feeling being part of this team. It lifts their spirit. They get along better at home too because they are not restless or bored."
The twins are happy to be part of the Lonestar team too.
"I love playing baseball," Jesus said with help from an interpreter. "I like throwing the ball, although sometimes it's a tough sport."
Being part of the baseball team has been a learning experience for the parents. Some are learning to sign, and all the parents relish being part of such a supportive group.
"It's a family thing, and everyone has come together really well," Montes said.
Parent Erika Lazo also has two students on the team: Ruben and Diego. Ruben is deaf and uses cochlear implants
"It was such a great help for Ruben. Diego plays soccer, and I really wanted to find something for Ruben to participate in," Lazo said. "When this team came together it was such a blessing to have both of them on the same team, and for Diego to really immerse himself in Ruben's world. Ruben has grown so much as a person. He is so confident now, and he's not afraid of anything anymore."