It’s not uncommon in Rochester, New York, to begin speaking to a stranger and have them reply in American Sign Language (ASL).
The city has been referred to as having the nation’s highest per capita deaf population, backed up in 2012 with data by the Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (RIT/NTID). The school estimated 3.7 percent of the city is deaf or hard-of-hearing.
That’s why the Rochester Red Wings, long-time Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, are teaming up with RIT/NTID for Deaf Culture Day on Sunday, April 28 at Frontier Field.
Red Wings seek education on deaf culture
The Red Wings will host the Pawtucket Red Sox with “Red Wings” jerseys spelled out in ASL and a hat with the capital “R” in ASL.
The game jerseys will be auctioned off to benefit NTID and Rochester School for the Deaf; merchandise is available for pre-order.
"We are proud to partner with NTID and Rochester School for the Deaf for Deaf Culture Day,” Wings general manager Dan Mason said in a team press release earlier this month, “so we can celebrate the deaf community and the important impact deaf citizens have had in Rochester. We look forward to hosting many deaf members of the Rochester community and their families while also educating all fans about deaf culture.”
NTID President Gerry Buckley said in a release that deaf and hard-of-hearing fans “have been among the most loyal Red Wings followers.”
“RIT/NTID is proud of its own history of deaf baseball players and is proud to partner with the Rochester Red Wings,” he said.
The team will place dozens of interpreters around the stadium for assistance, per the release, and parts of the game will be put on the video board for the first time.
There will be a silent inning with no PA or music and deaf individuals who had significant impact in the area will be highlighted throughout the game.
Increasing knowledge at the ballpark
One of the more difficult challenges of being deaf comes during public announcements. We rely on them for train departures, emergency information and, at sporting events, tidbits such as the new reliever or when an inning is starting while away getting snack.
Those things are on a video board, though at minor league games that isn’t always easy to read for some.
It’s also difficult to relay an order for hot dogs or ask where the garbage plates are sold. For an afternoon game at least, the Red Wings will help out their deaf community while celebrating the culture and introducing it to others.
Minor league baseball teams are increasingly taking on the task of adding important promotional days to their expanding schedule of goofy ones. The Red Wings will also host Autism Awareness Day for the second consecutive year. The volume will be lowered in the stadium and there will be fewer noise makers and abrupt sounds.
The Hartford Yard Goats are nixing peanut-free games for those with allergies and instead banning peanut and Cracker Jacks for the entire season. Teams hold pride nights, women in sports nights and city specific celebrations.
Other ideas — we’re looking at you, Montgomery Biscuits — haven’t gone over as well as Rochester’s celebration of deaf culture.
Many promotions filter up to big league clubs. The Baltimore Orioles were the first MLB team to wear Braille-lettered uniforms last September. They also used Braille on the lineup graphic and gave out alphabet cards.
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