This story is so good it writes itselfThe greatest part of being a journalist is that you get to meet a lot of people from all sorts of backgrounds. From army generals to the curmudgeon at the corner mom-and-pop grocery, you get to meet people who carry these little secret treasure boxes that are just waiting to be opened.
Listening to their stories, more than once I have found myself asking, “How could this be? How could this be happening and nobody cares?”
As a journalist you want to share that feeling with others, trying your best to put the story in words, knowing that you are able to give that little lift to someone out there on a grungy Monday morning.
When writing sports stories, there are the standard “wire” type reporting, say, of a record someone has broken. You also have stories covering the darker side of sports, with drunken athletes getting into bar brawls, beating up their wives or having extramarital sex. Drugs, alcohol and murder are all ammunition for the ever-hungry sportswriter. But in my opinion, the best stories are about athletes trying the impossible ― and I am not talking about breaking home run records. I am talking about stories that touch the essence of the sport. It is about just playing the game, being out on the field or court, giving your best.
The other day, I was out on a story about a group of young hearing-impaired baseball players, and I was not expecting much. I was not going to get any interviews since I could not talk to them, so I figured I would nail a couple of quotes from the coach and I would be finished in no time.
I was wrong. Crowded into a tent barely big enough for batting practice, the 17 boys on the baseball team for Sacred Heart School for the Deaf were sweating to get it right.
These boys were not out to participate in some sort of Special Olympics. In fact, they were hungry to beat out kids who have been playing ball since elementary school.
Their first test came in August when they took part in the Bonghwanggi high school baseball tournament. Though they had lost, 10-1, the bitter defeat failed to chip away at their desire to play.
“We have nothing to lose,” says coach Kim In-tae, 47, with a wide grin on his face. “Any team that loses to us has played its last game. The pressure is on them.”
That is true, Sacred Heart will never win a championship and most likely they will never win a single game either. For these brave boys, catching or hitting a ball is something that master Yoda should teach them. But Yoda will not be around to teach them how to use the force.
Unable to hear the sound of the bat hitting the ball, the boys have to rely more on instinct and much more on sight when playing defense. Burning infield plays into their minds through endless practice makes up for their hearing loss.
For every routine fly ball the bench will hold their breath and wildly cheer if it is caught. I know I would, too.
In 1999, Jim Abbot retired at the age of 31 after pitching for 10 years in the Major League. He pitched his way to the big show straight from college and threw a no-hitter in 1993 at Yankee Stadium against the Cleveland Indians. And he did it with only one hand ― he was born without a right one.
Korea is yet to have a professional baseball player who happens to be disabled, but it will happen.
by Brian Lee