[Colorado-talk] Blind Colorado couple Mark and Peggy LoRusso have a strong love for baseball

Nehemiah Hall nrh at n-republic.net
Sun Jun 14 13:40:13 UTC 2015

Thought some would like to read this. 


Blind Colorado couple Mark and Peggy LoRusso have a strong love for baseball

He feels the whipping wind, which delivers the roaming aroma of a fried-dough delicacy to his seat in left field. (His wife, wearing a matching jacket on this cold May day, gleefully joins others in hooting at a Philadelphia Phillie shagging batting practice balls in front of her. ( The crack of the bat takes Mark LoRusso back home — nestled near a radio in 1965 — as well as to home plate at Coors Field, 50 years later, the sound stimulating his senses.

"Baseball," Mark said, "I just can't seem to get enough of it."

Mark and Peggy LoRusso, married 30 years, sit in the front row and can't see a thing. And there's no other place they'd rather be.

Dan Sauvageau helps Mark LoRusso to his seat. Sauvageau has taken Mark and his wife to hundreds of Rockies games. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

"We have no idea what they think a baseball looks like, or a rainbow," said the blind couple's close friend, Dan Sauvageau. "It's something we take for granted every day. It makes you realize how lucky you are, when we take them to a game. It puts everything in perspective."

"We're just like anybody else," Peggy said. "We don't see it all, but we can hear it. ... I always say, 'Somebody has it worse than we have it.' That's how I look at it."

The tale begins in 1998, when Sauvageau's buddy, Randy Milliken, worked at Big Brothers Big Sisters. Milliken said his new co-worker, a blind man, yearned to attend a Rockies game.

"I'm like, 'What the (heck) does he want to go to a game for?' " Dan recalled. "And Randy didn't know either. But Mark got to the game, and he had a blast. Just being at the ballpark."


Mark's wife moved to Colorado the next year. She loved baseball too, the way Dan did. This red-stitched bond connected the three.

Dan isn't related to the LoRussos. He doesn't have a family connection to them. But he has taken them to nearly 300 Rockies games since that first meeting.

"You get to be good friends, and you do things for people," Dan said. "Life's too short not to do the things you like to do, just because you don't have the money to do it."

Brooks Robinson visits

Mark LoRusso holds the family cat, Angel, while talking with his wife, Peggy, at their home in Northglenn. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

Mark's eyes work in one regard. They have the capacity to cry.

Now 61, he grew up near Baltimore, soaking up the descriptions of Orioles games from radio broadcasts at home, seated alongside his dad. Young Mark could sometimes be found swinging a bat at a large stone near their house because the sound replicated the crack of a big-leaguer's smack.

The first major-league game he attended was in 1967, when Baltimore played Minnesota. He remembers crying in 1969, when his Orioles lost the World Series to the "Miracle Mets."

One of Mark's heroes was Baltimore third baseman Brooks Robinson, a Hall of Famer who once visited Mark and classmates at a school for the blind.

Peggy LoRusso dances during the seventh-inning stretch. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

"I remember playing 'beeper ball,' " Robinson, 78, said by phone. "The ball had the beeping sound so they could hear it, and I remember being blindfolded and experiencing the game with the students.

"I grew up right across the street from the Arkansas School for the Blind in Little Rock. I've always had affection for the blind and the deaf, and for what they go through."

Mark and Peggy became blind in a similarly heart-rending way — upon birth, each was placed in what Peggy called "an incubator," and the overwhelming oxygen levels blinded the babies.

And so, young Peggy also was enraptured by baseball broadcasts while growing up in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The "golden voice of Harry Kalas" transported her to Philadelphia Phillies games. To this day, she tells stories about random Phillies from long ago.

"It's an awesome game," said the peppy Peggy, who spices each sentence with color and colloquialisms. "I'm always yellin' at them — he'll tell ya! Hey, I'm into baseball. ... I yell at the TV, I yell at the radio. I listen to a lot of radio because they describe it better. I'll sit there at home and be yellin'! That's the passion of baseball! What kid and adult doesn't like baseball?"

Mark and Peggy first met at an adult camp for the blind.

"I invited her down to my house in Baltimore, and it just kind of went from there," Mark said one recent day at Coors Field. "I was 31."

"No!" Peggy chimed in. "He was 31 when we got married. I'm seven years older. I robbed the cradle! ... He had to then come to Pennsylvania. He had to come to my hometown to chase me.

Pregame. Peggy LoRusso faces left field from her seat at Coors Field while the Philadelphia Phillies have batting practice May 20. (Brent Lewis, The Denver Post)

"Thirty years. Married 30 years."

This is a love story. They're devoted. Attraction isn't just a visual sense. Both are blind, yet, together, they're so competent and confident.

"I had to learn how to cook. I can't starve, so I got to learn," Mark said of his early adult years. "When people tell me I can't do something, it just makes me want to do it even more."

Later, Peggy put it in the most Peggy way possible: "Tell me I can't do it, man? Watch out, buddy! I'm a go-getter."

Together they raised a daughter, now 30, living in Baltimore and caring for Mark's father.

It was Mark who first moved to Colorado. He needed work. So he took vocation education courses at the National Federation of the Blind. He soon nabbed a job with Big Brothers Big Sisters, then worked for Yellow Cab as a call taker. Peggy made the move to Denver a year later and worked in food service at the state Capitol.

"Tuna fish on toast was a favorite of Gov. (Bill) Owens," Peggy dished.

Mark and Peggy are now retired, although baseball fandom sometimes feels like a full-time gig.

"The pop of the bat"

Mark remembers attending games in Baltimore when he was young.

"You could smell the newness of the programs," he explained.

He remembers feeling the grass at Coors Field during a postgame fireworks. "It was cropped real short and felt so uniform. It was perfect — what you would dream baseball fields being like."

The LoRussos savor the details that make baseball special.

"I hear the pop of the bat," Mark said during batting practice. "In the games, when I hear the ball hitting the bat — I can hear it on the radio and on the field — it brings everything together."

They listen to the KOA radio broadcast while at the games, as if they have Jerry Schemmel seated to their left and Jack Corrigan to their right. Sometimes, when there's an extra-base hit — and the crowd is so loud that they can't hear through their headphones — Dan will scream an impromptu play-by-play into their ears. Dan loves those moments.

At the LoRussos' home, their voice-activated computer and television allow them to experience any baseball game they please. Baseball is something to look forward to, the best part of the day, every day. When one game ends after another has already begun, Mark will quickly flip over to the second game, explaining that it's "like you didn't get your ticket on time."

Baseball announcers are their idols. Mark does a spot-on Vin Scully. These are the voices that get their imaginations running.

"These are who they see baseball through," Sauvageau said.

At a Dodgers-Rockies game a couple of years ago, Dan told Mark that he felt ill. He asked Mark to accompany him to the stadium's medical station. They took an elevator up. Suddenly, they heard a voice. The Voice.

" 'Where's Mark?' " Dan remembers Scully, the Dodgers' legendary broadcaster, saying. Dan had set the whole thing up. "And Mark just lit up. It's something he'll never forget."

How to see your life

I wonder whether Sauvageau fully comprehends his generosity? Three hundred games. He drives 18 miles from his home in Firestone to Northglenn, where he picks up the LoRussos, then 10 more miles to Coors Field. And in the earlier years, when he lived in Thornton and the LoRussos lived in Aurora, his drive to their home took 45 minutes.

Emily comes too. She is Dan's 11-year-old daughter. Baseball is her middle-school crush. Emily has yet to miss an opening day in her lifetime, including 2004, when she was 7 months old. She has attended more than 550 Rockies games, a southpaw's glove glued to her right hand like Linus' blanket. When she was younger, Emily would sit on Peggy's lap in their seats at Coors Field, Section 153 in left field, first row.

Dan and Emily. Mark and Peggy.

"It's just like a regular family outing," Mark said. "That's what it's been, all these years."

Dan drives the gang to the games in his 2014 Kia Rawlings.

See, Emily's sixth-grade teacher recently had the students draw a futuristic dream car. Emily's drawing looked like a baseball. So, Dan the dream maker made the dream car. He wrapped his Kia with a replica of red stitching on a white exterior, the perfect chariot for his carpool.

During batting practice on this May day, a Phillies player in the outfield tosses a ball to Emily. The wind whips. Bats thwack. That grass is just so green. Mark tells me he's blessed. I don't fully believe him.

"I'm blessed in many regards. I really am," he said.

So I asked him for his perspective on life, because he seems to try to make the most out of it.

"Yes, sir," he said, the lone time he called me sir. "I believe that whatever punches you're thrown, you enjoy life, have fun and do the best you can — and try to help people, because you get more out of helping people than you do actually wanting something for yourself. ...

"I've lived a full life. Now I'm trying to enjoy the heck out of it."

A full life. A beautiful, poignant description from a man who has never seen a thing, yet has seen it all.

Benjamin Hochman: bhochman at denverpost.com or twitter.com/hochman



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