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One individual that I can't wait to meet someday in person is a guy in Rochester named Chris Mathews.  I had a chance to speak with him last night via Zoom and after the conversation was done, I was not only inspired by him and his determination to reach some personal goals but also thankful for those in our area that demonstrated what the word "community" is all about in Southeast Minnesota.  You can see in the photo that Chris is holding a baseball.  While some might say, "no big deal, I've held a baseball too", what you should know is that Chris was able to throw that ball several times at a target and hit it after a little bit of training.  Oh, and he is legally blind.

Chris was born at 26 weeks and at birth, his retina detached which has caused limited vision his entire life.  While not being able to see has its limitations, it hasn't stopped Chris' dreams from coming true.  One of those was to learn how to pitch.

Chris is a huge baseball lover and spent many game days listening to the pre-game show for the Brewers on the radio.  Baseball is a sport that he loves and in fact, the only type of math he enjoyed as a kid was when he'd hear statistics for baseball.  Although he is visually impaired, that hasn't stopped Chris from playing the game either.  He's been to the batting cages with his friends and tried that with some adaptations but learning how to pitch has always been something he has wanted to do.  Now that Spring Training is in front of us, he's got the itch.

There is a group on Facebook called "Spotted in Rochester" and Chris thought he'd just write on there and see if anyone might be willing to help him learn how to throw a baseball in the strike zone.  What happened next is one of the best examples of "Minnesota Nice" that I've ever seen.

A bunch of people responded to Chris offering to help in various ways including Mitch Brown, who is a former Minor League Baseball Pitcher and is the Owner of Velocity Baseball Training.

"To me, what this has turned into over the last 2 or 3 days, is the fact that a lot of people are willing to reach out and share their expertise and share their insights on how this might be willing to work...and if I can shed light on especially experiences like what I did last night at the Rochester batting cages with Mitch, that is what I want to try highlight because there is a lot of credit deserved here...I've tried to kind of flip the coverage...because, yes, it is about me being someone who can't see and learning how to pitch but at the end of the day, seeing is actually not as much a part of pitching as some may think.  When you bat...growing up what does every dad say? "Keep your eye on the ball." And I can't do that.   But when you're pitching, it is important to be lined up correctly and a lot of people do that visually.  From my understanding and my hour and a half of experience last night, I think this is very doable without vision and I had that confirmed for me last night." - Chris Mathews

After about 1 1/2 hours of training with Mitch, Chris was able to successfully hit the target several times.  He wasn't throwing into a glove in the strike zone yet hearing the sound the ball makes in a glove is one of his goals and he's looking forward to making that happen. 

"Minnesota Nice" showed up big time by all the offers to help Chris out with his goal and transportation, but it also showed up in another way.

"There were a lot of students from middle school to high school there and they were interested in meeting me and Mitch mentioned later that some of them looked over and were like "oh, what's going on over there. Oh, a blind guy. Oh cool, and they went back to what they were doing.  It wasn't this weird spectacle and... I really can't understate how much I appreciate that because I walk around down the sidewalk day-to-day and people are like woah, what?  To just be there and throwing some baseball and be like, Hey, You're here to play baseball.  I'm here to play baseball.  Cool! Sounds good to me.  That's really cool." - Chris Mathews

What's next for Chris?  In our call he said, His goal right now is to see where there goes and keep going with it and see what his next step is.  But, I'm thinking that the Brewers should give him a call so he can meet the team and stand on that pitcher's mound.

Do you have a "Minnesota Nice" story?  Please, let me know about it on our app (just hit chat) or send me a message to my Facebook page (Jessica On The Radio) or DM me on Instagram.  Coming soon - the video interview that I had with Chris via Zoom.

Listen to Jessica Williams weekdays from 6 am until 10 am on Y105FM's Early Morning Show with James Rabe and Jessica Williams

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