Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baseball Dreams

Robbie Lumpkins and I

ABC News on Campus Website Photo Shoot, May 11 2009

On Monday, May 11, I drove back up to Gainesville. The new bureau hires were meeting to take a group picture for the website. Later that night, Brittny and I decided to go to Swamp with some friends. When I was there I ran into a friend of mine, Clayton Pisani. Clayton is on the UF baseball team. We started talking about baseball and he asked about my job with ABC News on Campus. The reporter in me came out and it wasn't long before I asked if there was anything newsworthy about baseball this season. After a few seconds, he said, "Robbie!"
"Robbie? Is he on the team?" I asked.
"Well, kind of," he responded. Clayton preceded to tell me about Robbie Lumpkins...

I had discovered an amazing story. Clayton said I could meet Robbie at the next home game that Friday.

When I got to the stadium, I walked up to the dugout and looked for Clayton. All the players were facing the field, looking exactly the same in their baseball uniforms. Their distinguishing marks were of no use because of course, I didn't know Clayton's number. So for a good five minutes, I awkwardly stood above the dugout, looking for Clayton, as onlookers most likely assumed I was checking out the team physique.

Once I found my friend, I asked if he knew where Robbie was.

"Over there," Clayton pointed to a man in a wheel chair sitting in section F. I walked over, sat next to him, and started talking.

Robbie was so friendly and kind. I explained I was a reporter from ABC News on Campus interested in doing a feature story on him and his love for the Gators. Robbie's face lit up and he quickly responded, "anything for the team!"

That week, my photographer and I followed Robbie around at two home games and one practice. Meeting Robbie was a blessing. His story changed my life. Robbie faces obstacles every day, yet he is so positive and has so much love and passion for life. He doesn't let his disability define who is he and what he can do.

I finished the story on Wednesday, May 27, and sent the script over to Hank Astengo, the sports anchor at the local ABC affiliate in Gainesville, WCJB TV20. I called Hank on Thursday and asked if I could swing by and let him take a look at the finished product. When I got to the station, we went to an edit bay and popped in my tape. When my story was over Hank said, "I have to rearrange my show."
"What?" I asked, extremely confused.
"I'm using this tonight," he replied, "This is amazing!"

I was in complete shock. I thought Hank would critique my package and have me change a few things, and if I was lucky, maybe he'd post it on WCJB's website. To my surprise, he wanted to air my package that night.

So, I called Robbie and everyone else I could think of and told them to watch the news at 6 and 10pm.

The next day, (yesterday) WCJB's assignment desk called me and said CNN picked up my story!
CNN Baseball Dreams

ESPN also picked up the piece! ESPN U Gators' No. 1 fan

I hope all who watch this are inspired by Robbie and his incredible story...

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