I was covering the Donna Ricker softball tournament in Wood-Ridge one clear April morning, and midway through the first game, Michael approached me and said, “Darren, I think the umpire is deaf.”

He is. His name is Jonathan Breuer and he’s actually been umpiring and refereeing games in North Jersey for almost a decade.

What followed was what I hoped was an intimate portrait of a fit and trim 57-year old man with a loving wife Sari (the picture of the two of them hugging was completely unstaged— I smile just looking at it).

Jonathan’s quest was to show that deaf people – and he didn’t mind the term – can do anything.

This was also a personal story. My mother was deaf and wore hearing aids all her life. That didn’t stop her from being awesome, kind and having an amazing career working in education. Sure, she held the phone upside down (the microphone for her hearing aid was attached to clip inside her shirt) but when people stared, she would just show them.

Her brother, my Uncle Bubba (every Louisiana boy has an Uncle Bubba) was also born deaf. He has worn hearing aids all his life. He worked for 30 years as a purchasing agent for a hospital in New Orleans, played baseball forever, and can tell a funny story better than anyone I know.

I’ve also been touched by the family malady. A bad case of swimmers ear 35 years ago caused me to lose most of my hearing on my left side.

You deal with it. You move on.  Jonathan Breuer certainly has. He’s taken his disability and, like many before him, refused to let it define him.

I grew up seeing it first-hand.  It was great to see it again.