Royals treat visually impaired kids to a tactile day at the K

06/24/2014 8:57 PM

06/25/2014 11:36 AM

Amiah Washington’s mother didn’t tell her where they were going.

“I have a surprise for you,” she told her daughter. That surprise was going to be Amiah’s first activity with Alphapointe, and her first trip to Kauffman Stadium.

Amiah is 11 years old. She wore a gray Royals shirt and rhinestone jean shorts, carrying a lime green bag with a capital ‘A’ stitched in pink. She’s also visually impaired.

Alphapointe, a Kansas City organization dedicated to blind and visually impaired youth, took its kids to Kauffman Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.

It was the Royals’ idea.

“The Royals approached us at the end of last season and asked if we’d be interested in organizing a tactile tour with the kids,” said Sharon Brown, a manager at Alphapointe.

Outside Gate A, a group of 10 kids ages 8 to 18 gathered. The excitement was as palpable as the muggy air.

Lexi Hamilton skipped up to the gate, cane in hand, where she discovered a friend.

“Tucker?” She squealed. “Tucker!”

His name hung in the air for a moment, her arms wrapped around him. She waited to squeeze until he recognized her voice.

“Oh, my gosh. Lexi,” replied Tucker Wagner. “I didn’t know you were coming to this game.”

The surprises just kept on coming.

The kids followed tour guide Erin Werges. Her voice was high and patient, inviting and easy to trust. She stopped inside the door of the Royals Hall of Fame and told the children to feel.

Before them was a wooden wall with headlines from Royals’ history carved into it:

“You gotta love it!” “Royals head to first World Series.” “A miracle on I-70!”

History is marvelous, so is an alternative way to learn about it. Baseball is beautiful, even when all you can do is feel it.

They walked around the corner to the Dugout Theater. It was dark inside the room, benches lining one wall and a screen engulfing the wall across. Soon enough, a video about baseball’s history in Kansas City began to play.

Kansas City classics from 18th and Vine played. Josh McReynolds heard a saxophone, tugged at his dark blue and red Monarchs cap, smiled, then snapped his fingers to the music.

Willie Wilson’s face appeared on the screen. But all the kids heard was a voice. And that voice was saying, “Never leave the field clean.”

They had never heard that advice, but they imitate it. They have their entire lives.

“I’m wondering what you think of me,” Dajanee Faison said after the video. “I don’t want to be judged.”

Faison didn’t have to worry about that here. Not with Alphapointe.

Werges led the group outside to scale the edge of the outfield fence, underneath Kauffman’s Jumbotron. But the kids were more interested in the fountains. They put their hands over the rail as they walked, feeling the mist on their skin, passing by the whooshing water.

Anticipation soared as the group inched toward the field, where the Royals were taking batting practice.

“What I want to do,” Faison begins. “is run down there. Run past every baseball player and yell, ‘Hey!’ ”

Faison didn’t do that, and she didn’t need to. Royals pitcher Bruce Chen wandered over to the backstop and signed their white Royals hats. First baseman Eric Hosmer followed suit.

Werges asked Derek Trischler who his favorite player is. He answered emphatically. Billy Butler.

“He’s right in front of you,” Werges said.

Trischer waved and yelled, “Hi Billy!”

Over by the dugout, Royals play-by-play man Denny Matthews took Wagner’s hands, molding his fingers along the stitches to teach him certain pitches.

Fastball. Curveball. Screwball.

Wagner felt and learned and, in one little word, captures what Tuesday was all about, “Cool!”

Nothing ever felt so good.

To reach Megan Armstrong, send email to marmstrong@kcstar.com. Follow her on Twitter @meganKarmstrong.

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