[Nfbmo] Fw: blind person throws out first pitch at Dodgers game

James Moynihan jamesmmoynihan at gmail.com
Tue Aug 30 15:11:18 UTC 2011

Fellow Federationists


Jim Moynihan
----- 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 
the game.

"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
FAX 816-235-5191
Neumand at umkc.edu

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