VIDEO: Using assistive technology, OCDE student tells the Angels to ‘Play ball!’

“Play ball!”

With thousands of baseball fans looking on, Greyson Belles served up those time-honored words to signal the start of an evening game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Washington Nationals.

It’s a proclamation that’s been associated with America’s pastime since the 1800s. But it hasn’t been said quite like this — at least not here. 

Greyson, 17, is enrolled in OCDE’s Special Education program and has been diagnosed with cerebral palsy and a severe developmental delay that prevents him from communicating verbally. He relies on a speech-generating device to convey his thoughts and feelings, and he’s believed to be the first student to use this technology to start a game at Angel Stadium. Watch it happen in the video above.

Greyson, a student at OCDE's Harbor Learning Center, with Duey Luu, a staff member from his group home, and OCDE Speech and Language Specialists Art Marmelejo and Paul DePerry.
Greyson, a student at OCDE’s Harbor Learning Center, was selected for the ceremonial “Play ball!” announcement at an Angels home game on May 6. He was joined by Duey Luu, a staff member from his group home, along with OCDE Speech and Language Specialists Art Marmelejo and Paul DePerry.

A resident of Huntington Beach, Greyson has attended the Orange County Department of Education’s Harbor Learning Center since July 2016. With the help of his instructors, and plenty of practice at school and home, he’s become quite proficient at expressing himself through his device, his teachers say.

In fact, his progress inspired Speech and Language Specialist Paul DePerry as OCDE made plans for a family outing in May to see the Angels play the Nationals.

“As a season seat holder for the Angels, I observed many kids go onto the field and announce ‘Play ball’ right before the game,” DePerry said. “With our OCDE night at Angels Stadium coming up, I thought it would be an amazing event to have Greyson start the game with his device.”

“Greyson loves the Angels,” he added, “and wears his Mike Trout jersey to school once a week.”

DePerry said the Angels staff rallied to help pull it together, embracing the chance to have Greyson become the first student to start a game using assistive technology.

And when it came time for his Big A moment, Greyson was ready. 

Wearing a bright red No. 27 Trout jersey under a denim vest, he took up his position on the third-base side of the field behind home plate and bounced joyfully during his introduction. Moments later, he used his right thumb to tap on an iPad, which dutifully transmitted those two magic words: “Play ball.”

Greyson celebrated with a quick bow and dance as the announcer called out his name one more time.

“It took a lot of coordination and little bit of luck to get it done, but we did it,” DePerry said. “As you can tell from the video, he knew the significance of the honor and was so excited to do it.”

Oh, and the game that followed wasn’t too bad either. The Angels won, 3-0.