30-day odyssey brings blind fan to city, PNC Park
Reggie Deal, right, is a blind man who is traveling to 30 major league ballparks in 30 days. He visited PNC Park Friday night, and is sponsored by a couple from Masontown. He is escorted by friend Beth Korsmit.
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Reggie Deal is a one-of-a-kind baseball fanatic.
His visit Friday to PNC Park marked the 27th leg of his trip to 30 Major League Baseball ballparks in 30 days. The solo mission was a bucket-list item -- one Deal never thought he would actually check off.
Deal, 39, is blind. He was born prematurely and given a 25 percent chance of survival. He was placed in an incubator to help the development of his lungs, but overexposure to the incubator's 90 percent pure oxygen level -- over four times the typical atmospheric condition -- caused his retinas to hemorrhage and detach from his eyes, permanently blinding him.
He's no stranger to challenges.
In 2008, Deal was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. He had surgery to remove the thyroid and has since been labeled cancer-free. Deal has been using the 30-in-30 trip to promote awareness of ThyCa -- Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association.
Deal started plotting this trip when the 2012 schedules came out last fall. Although the idea originated in the mid-1990s, it didn't become a reality until he received an unexpected life insurance payoff.
Since April 29, the Texas native and current Wyoming resident has gone coast to coast and everywhere in between, logging more than 20,000 miles via bus, train and plane. The trip will conclude Monday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
He has nearly witnessed history -- twice. Deal was in Baltimore on May 7. The Rangers' Josh Hamilton homered four times at Camden Yards the next day. Detroit ace Justin Verlander was within two outs of his third no-hitter against the Pirates on May 18. Deal was in Detroit the next day.
Deal taught himself baseball in middle school while living in Texas, taking in every bit of information he could. He would flip on the Astros or Rangers radio broadcasts. He would read a baseball book -- or have one read to him.
Before he started this trip, Deal contacted every team to find out outfield dimensions. More than a handful of teams invited him to walk the warning track before the game.
During the games, Deal takes in the atmosphere of the stadium -- the sounds and smells -- while listening to the radio broadcast.
"The baseball side of it -- the way clubs have responded -- has been overwhelming in a good way," Deal said. "The part that's been very difficult and frankly downright annoying has been the travel industry."
A run-in with a cab door in New York left him with a chipped tooth. A cabbie in Cleveland ran a drawbridge crossing -- "What are you trying to do? Do you want to kill me or do you want to have my wife kill you?" Deal asked.
An Air Canada attendant refused to help with a simple customs form. And his bus ride from Cincinnati to Pittsburgh on Friday couldn't have gone worse.
The Greyhound bus broke down in Claysville in Washington County. When his friend Beth Korsmit went to pick him up, Deal discovered that his luggage hadn't made the transfer with him in Columbus, Ohio.
He still made it to PNC Park on time.
After a month of baseball, Deal has travel tips, praises, complaints and memories galore, but what he'll cherish is the traditions unique to each ballpark.
Deal said his 30 games will have a total paid attendance near 900,000. His hope is to have major league clubs or sponsors drum up the funds to match that number as a donation to ThyCa.
First Published May 26, 2012 12:00 am