Deal's inspiring trek takes turn through Cincy
CINCINNATI -- Reggie Deal set foot in his 26th Major League ballpark in as many days on Thursday night in Cincinnati, and on Monday he fulfilled his goal of visiting 30 ballparks in 30 days, which is in and of itself an astonishing, if not exhausting, trip.
Now, throw one more wrench into that equation: Deal is blind and has been since surviving a premature birth. Given a one-in-four chance of living, Deal was put in an incubator, where prolonged oxygen exposure permanently detached Deal's retinas.
But that's all in the past.
"When I was in middle school in the mid-80s, listening to the game on the radio [was] pretty much how I learned the game," Deal said. "Growing up in Texas, obviously it was the Astros and the Rangers. And living in a college town, a lot of Texas A&M baseball games. For me, that was the genesis of it."
By "it," Deal means the tremendous passion he has for a good game of baseball.
Asked to name his favorite part of Ballpark No. 26, Great American Ball Park, Deal had a number of astute observations on the ready.
"To me, it seems to be one of the better outfields to play," he said. "I have walked on about six of the outfield warning tracks, and it is one of the better outfields to play because there are no sharp corners and the electronic board in the outfield isn't in play -- it is protected by a fence.
"It is a lot easier to run into a chain-link fence instead of a massive ad or scoreboard," Deal explained. "It looks like a fun place to play. Defensively, if you are a good leaper, you can steal a home run away from someone. It is well known as a hitter's ballpark. From the standpoint of a batter, I am sure it is a fun place to hit."
Deal said he'll bring back plenty of memories and a few concrete items to remember his baseball marathon by.
"The thing I am getting in almost every ballpark is the little lapel pins," Deal said, "and what I have been telling people at the ballparks is that I don't want something that is about a player. I would like something that is about the ballpark or of the club logo. In some cases, I have a pin of the actual ballpark that they play in. Or like from Colorado, I have the [interlocking] 'CR.' Since I am on the road for a whole month, they are pretty easy to collect and pack and not damage."
Deal was worn out but happy as he settled onto a bench in the Reds' dugout to offer up his thoughts to a plethora of Cincinnati-based reporters.
"The planning was a lot of fun; being in the ballparks is a lot of fun -- but the travel has been harder than I expected," he said. "And I don't mean getting from city to city, but dealing with getting around in each city -- using the public transit or taxi cabs. It's been a little challenging, a little more daunting than I thought it would be, to be perfectly honest."
But he still says it's worth it.
Deal's already beginning to make plans for when he returns from Ballpark No. 30, Wrigley Field, although he says there's "nothing official."
"My friends have been telling me that they expect that a book will be written," he said. "Once I get back and take some time to recover for a few weeks, I think I will sit down and start looking into what would be necessary in order to write a book."
Meggie Zahneis, winner of the 2011 Breaking Barriers essay contest, earned the job of youth correspondent for MLB.com in the fall of '11. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.