Emma and Jetta

Baseball is a game that heightens the senses.

(Mills Fitzner)

By Jim O'Hara / Rome Braves | July 12, 2017 2:25 PM ET

Baseball is a game that heightens the senses. The smell of fresh popcorn and hot dogs permeates the ballpark. The sounds of the crowd and the crack of the bat fills the air. 

The sights provide image after image of a game that last a lifetime for everyone who has fallen in love with America's pastime.

Emma Chambers loves everything about baseball, so much so that she has overcome the lack of one of her senses - sight - to become a vital part of the Rome Braves' press box communications crew that allows others to see and hear what takes place on the diamond at State Mutual Stadium for every home game.

 And this season, the third for the 19-year-old from Rome who is the team's broadcast producer that syncs the radio broadcast with the streaming of the game for the live on-line broadcast, she is joined at her work station by a new friend - Jetta, a two-year-old Golden Retriever guide dog who has also become part of the game-day staff at SMS.

"She's done a great job," Rome Braves assistant general manager Jim Jones, who supervises the press box at the stadium, said about Chambers. "She loves every aspect of the game and was the perfect person for the position." 

"Emma contacted me before the season and told me about Jetta and she fits right in," he said about the working dog that stays by her side as Chambers works. "Jetta is part of the crew. It's a wonderful thing to watch."

"Honestly, when I first met Emma, I didn't know she was visually impaired."

"Before I got my dog you'd never know I has vision problems," said Emma, who graduated from Rome High School and is now a sophomore at nearby Berry College where she is majoring in exercise science and Spanish. "You have to adapt. That was one of the first skills I learned as a child."

Emma was diagnosed as an infant with Achromatopsia, a condition where there is an inability of the cone cells in the eye to properly respond to light input. She sees no color, has no depth perception, is sensitive to bright light and allows those who are affected by the condition to only see things extremely close up, such as the monitor she mans during games.

"The doctors compare it to looking through wax paper," Emma explained. "I don't know what things look like to everyone else. But I was raised as if I didn't have any vision problems, so props to my parents for that."

The daughter of Milton and Julie Chambers and the third of four of the couple's children, Emma grew up doing everything her siblings and family did whether it be riding a bike, running around the yard and, like many little girls, take part in a local gymnastics program.

Her condition never prevented her from overcoming any barrier she faced. At 16, she learned to read Braille even though she can read very large print and concentrated on memorizing the steps she took to get around the house, at school, in the community and even running up to the vault when she was vaulting in gymnastics.

Thanks to her determination and never-quit mentality, Emma agreed to undergo an experimental gene therapy procedure a year ago at the prestigious Bascom-Palmer Eye Institute in Miami in an effort to improve her vision and earlier this year took a huge step forward when Jetta entered her life.

 "I applied for a dog last September, was approved in December and got her on March 13," Emma said about the process in which she received Jetta through the Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, N.Y. "She's young so we had to work on the trust between us. For her, it's probably very scary being in a new place with a new owner.

 "But she's become very attached to me," she pointed out, noting that Jetta is quickly learning the sound of Emma's voice and commands. "When I step out of the shower, she's there waiting for me. When I go downstairs, she's there to help.

"I don't have to worry about counting steps any more. Now, she lets me know if there's a step or a curb. Getting Jetta has given me safety, confidence and independence. I can walk with friends normally.

"This has been the greatest decision of my life," Emma said.

Together, Emma and Jetta have now teamed up to allow those who can't attend the Rome Braves' home games to see and hear - the Braves' games are carried on 99.5 The Jock with Kevin Karel providing the play-by-play - the action at MILB.TV.

 "You can grasp the sport better listening to a game and listening to Kevin, you know exactly what's happening," said Emma who follows the Braves and Cubs. "Baseball is a very blind-friendly sport and I guarantee you that if you'd ask a blind person what their favorite sport was, they'd say baseball."

 "It proves that State Mutual Stadium is a mecca for the entire community, from the entertainment perspective to the staff perspective," said General Manager Mike Dunn, who noted that the Braves have always and will continue to include senior citizens and those with special needs as part of the game day staff. "Baseball is a game for everyone."

 "It's fun. I do love baseball," said Emma. "I know what the strike zone is, but one day I'd love to see it."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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