[Nfbmo] Fw: blind person throws out first pitch at Dodgers game
jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com
Tue Aug 30 15:11:18 UTC 2011
----- Original Message -----
From: "Neuman, Dale A." <NeumanD at umkc.edu>
To: <jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, August 30, 2011 8:16 AM
Subject: blind person throws out first pitch at Dodgers game
LOS ANGELES — Shortly after 7 p.m. on Monday night at Dodger Stadium, Lorri
Bernson threw out the first pitch prior to the Dodgers-San Diego Padres
Like dozens of other first-pitch honorees before her this season, Bernson
was accompanied by family and friends. Dodger catcher A.J. Ellis was behind
the plate, yelling instructions to Bernson, who arched the ball and got it
to him on one bounce. Then, Dodger starter Clayton Kershaw headed to the
mound to warm up for his start. Ellis and Bernson shared a celebratory hug,
and walked off the field awash in a warm ovation from the crowd. It was just
another routine first pitch ceremony in Chavez Ravine.
Not quite. The starting pitcher doesn't often take the mound in footsteps of
somebody who cannot see.
Bernson is blind, having lost 98 percent of her vision at age 33 due to
complications from Type 1 diabetes. Ellis talked with her throughout to
guide her through the pitch. It was the first time in Dodger Stadium history
that a person who has virtually no sight tossed the ceremonial pitch. Add to
that, general manager Ned Colletti and the organization itself are the
sponsors of Bernson's guide dog, Carter.
"When I signed my last contract with the Dodgers," Colletti said, "I added a
clause that I would donate X amount of money to help charities of my
choosing. I added the clause with the stipulation that the Dodgers would
match it. I had done some (charitable) work in Chicago and San Francisco,
but here I wanted to try to make more of an impact, even if it was just one
person at a time.
"(Former Dodger) Wes Parker does some baseball teaching at the Braille
Institute, and he talked to me about coming over there and talking to some
of the students. I did, and that along with the fact that I have some
friends who train guide dogs intrigued me a little bit. Then I met Lorri,
learned about her story, and went out to the Guide Dogs of America complex
in Sylmar (where Bernson is a public relations and community liaison). I saw
the program and the great things that they do providing guide dogs, and I
immediately committed to it."
On many game days, Colletti also auctions off special items at the tables
you see throughout Dodger Stadium, with the highest bidder being able to go
on the field to meet Don Mattingly, then spend some time with the GM during
"All the money raised goes directly to the guide dogs," Colletti proudly
reported. "I have great respect for what they do at GDA, the people who
raise the dogs on their own, and how it adds so much to the lives of people
who are really in need."
Bernson and boyfriend Matt Kells practiced daily for about six weeks, with
Bernson wearing her baseball glove and wearing a Dodger blue T-shirt while
going through her pitching workout. She was joined on the field by other
visually challenged people, guide dog trainers and their puppies, and during
the game there were more than 300 GDA benefactors and beneficiaries in the
stands. It was a huge moment for the GDA, and being the first person to have
a guide dog sponsored by Colletti and the Dodgers is an honor for Bernson,
something that helps make the whole experience as rewarding for Colletti as
it is for Bernson.
"No doubt," he said. "No doubt.
"I never forget where I'm from, and how when I was growing up we always had
to have people helping us out. I think that's the way the world should be,
and I want to be able to help a person, make a positive impact on their
life. Half of it is knowing you can help them, but the other half is that it
lets someone know that you really care.
"When you think about (Lorri) losing her vision, when she had her it for 33
years, and how much her world changed, that's not easy for anyone to go
through that. And it's more than just spending time with them. You can spend
ten or fifteen minutes with a person, but after you leave, they still have
the same challenges. When I got involved in this, I wanted to make sure that
anything I was able to do had a lasting impact, again so they know that
someone out there really cares."
Bernson said that's exactly what Colletti has done.
"He came to the school for a tour in December of 2009 and decided that he
wanted make a donation and do a sponsorship so he could see the end result.
He didn't want the money to just go into the general fund; he wanted to get
to know the people who he'd be helping.
"I was in the process of retiring my first guide dog, Nigel, which was a
very hard thing for me to do, and after the tour that day and him making the
commitment to (GDA), I sent him an email and said that I'd be honored if
he'd consider sponsoring my next dog, even though I didn't know yet who my
next dog would be. I promised him that he'd definitely see the end result
and that my dog and I would continue to be a part of his life. He wrote back
and said ‘make it happen.’ So, he and the Dodgers ended up sponsoring Carter
and me, and I received Carter in January of 2010.
"It was perfect timing."
Soon Colletti was getting regular updates on Carter and Bernson, and it
wasn't long before Bernson came up with the idea of throwing the ceremonial
first pitch as a way to put the spotlight on GDA and the wonderful services
it provides to the visually handicapped.
"I actually said to myself on the day that I met Ned that I was going to
throw out the first pitch someday. I really needed to make it happen because
it would be a great way to promote what we do. And since he and the Dodgers
were now making a serious monetary (commitment), it just seemed like a
natural thing to do. When I finally told Ned about my idea, we talked a
little bit about it. I just had it in my head that I wanted to do it for the
exposure for the school. Yes, I would be doing it because it was something
I'd love to do, but because (GDA) gave me such an incredible gift in Nigel
and then Carter, me throwing out the first pitch and getting the publicity
for the school was a big way that I could give back.
"It's an amazing opportunity to get out there in the middle of the field as
a blind person and accomplish it. No matter where the ball ended up, I can
say I did it. And I'm helping the school as well. After I lost my sight,
they helped me get my independence back with the gifts of Nigel and now
Carter, and there's no way I can ever pay them back for that. But in a small
way, by throwing out that first pitch, it will give Guide Dogs of America a
little of the exposure they deserve, not just for what they did for me, but
what they've done and continue to do to give people their lives back. And
that makes me feel great, because I'll be able to reach many, many more
people than I could if I'd have never gotten this chance."
Colletti is constantly amazed at Bernson and her drive to live life to its
fullest every moment.
"When you spend any time with her, it's so great to watch how she tries to
live her life the same way she did before she lost her sight. Obviously,
that's a really tough thing to do, but she doesn't let anything get in the
way of her at least trying to live that life. She's a very special person."
(For more information, go to
Dale A. Neuman
Director, Harry S Truman Center for Governmental Affairs
Special Projects Associate, College of Arts and Sciences
Professor Emeritus of Political Science
816-235-6108 or 816-235-2787
Neumand at umkc.edu
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