Thursday, April 1, 2010

Deaf baseball and a brief meeting with Curtis Pride

Back in February I wrote Curtis Pride, formerly of the Expos and now baseball coach for the Gallaudet Bison to request an autograph and a future interview. Mr. Pride granted both and I informed him that I would try to catch the Bison's game against York College which was yesterday. I left work and headed west and was able to catch some of the game before I had to leave to pick up Gaga at practice.

Although I have lived up here for almost two years, I had not made it out to York before this game. Having done so, I don't really care if I never make it again. I didn't think York was that big but the roads are laid out as if it is a mighty city. Trying to get to York College was a definite chore. Of course, I might be spoiled living in my three traffic light town with all the Amish.

Got out to the game and spoke with Mr. Pride briefly while the team was warming up. Gallaudet has had a rough season. Going into the game they were 0-17 on the season. Morale has taken a nose dive and some players had left the team leaving the squad with just 13 players. Mr. Pride expressed that he was excited over the fact that he was to get two Division I transfers for next season (Gallaudet is D-III). York is a mid-level team in the Capital Athletic Conference but even still, I wasn't expecting a close game.

Gallaudet is a school for the deaf and I have to say my experiences with deaf folk are limited. My experience with the deaf playing baseball was non-existent. It definitely seemed like there were a lot of challenges and few benefits from having a deaf team. I was really surprised when the team came in from warming up and headed to the two girls who were the team assistants. They had seeds and gum and five of the players came at them with hands flying a hundred miles an hour signing. It'd be like five people talking to you at once. Whereas you can hear from multiple directions, though, your eyes can only see so many places at once. I just thought it would be hard.

Before the game the Star Spangled Banner was played. This struck me, too. How many times in their lives had those guys lined up for the national anthem, caps over their hearts, and not have any idea what it sounded like?

The game began and I got to experience something unique right off the bat. Gallaudet's pitcher, Zane Noschese, led off for the Bison. The designated hitter is typically used in D-III but with the limited roster, the Bison decided to forgo the DH and let Noschese bat. Never have seen a pitcher lead off a game before. He led off in fine form, lofting a fly to right-center which dropped for a single. This was incredibly encouraging. Gallaudet has been no-hit once this season and last game they were no-hit through the sixth inning. Leading off with a hit was very auspicious and made me think I might be good luck.

York's pitcher threw a pickoff attempt away which advanced Noschese to third. After a popup, Gallaudet took advantage of a very clear and windy day as the centerfielder misjudged a ball for a double. York's pitcher, making his first start of the season, had some troubles. He balked the runner to third then went to his mouth while on the rubber for a ball which resulted in a walk. The Bison pulled off a double steal to take a 2-0 lead.

Something I found really neat was that instead of clapping, the Bison players would applaud by removing their hats and waving them. Pretty cool.

Let me digress a moment. Either someone in York's Sport Information Department had his girlfriend in the pressbox or they had a contest before the game to find the least knowledgeable person on campus to be the PA announcer. When she announced the starting lineups there was a "secondfielder" and a "centerbaseman". Between innings she would try to provide summaries of the inning but would say things like "and Gallaudet leaves one runner on the baseman". It was brutal.

Back to the action. York homered in the bottom of the first to make it 2-1. Gallaudet went down 1-2-3 on grounders to short then York exploded for five runs to make it 6-2.

Now I was getting to see some of the difficulties. In the first, a Gallaudet player drew ball four on a wild pitch. He did not see the pitch get away and he trotted to first when he probably could have taken second if he had noticed. With his head down he couldn't see the coach signaling and of course could not hear if anyone had been yelling.

Likewise, in the second, York plated a run with a sac fly. Pride wanted an appeal but it took a while to get the pitcher's attention. Again, with the team screaming and yelling, the pitcher tends to notice pretty quick.

The pitcher and catcher had the advantage of being able to sign to one another throughout the game. It appeared like Noschese was trying to get a sense of how close his pitches were. Nice not having to have the catcher come out to the mound all the time.

Found it interesting that Gallaudet had two sets of brothers among the thirteen players. Kyle and Chester Kuschmider, from Olathe, Kansas, were the starting rightfielder and secondbaseman. Angelo and Peter Leccese, of North Bellmore, New York, both played leftfield during the game.

Speaking of hometowns, it never ceases to amaze me how even smaller athletic programs recruit from elsewhere. York had thirty guys on their squad. Guess how many came from York? One. I probably shouldn't be surprised, but I always am. I tend to think of schools like York as being places that local kids go to. I'm wrong.

I had to leave after the top of the fourth. The score was still 6-2. I'm sort of glad I did. York put up a ten spot in the fifth and went on to win 20-4. Thirteen different Spartans had base hits in the game.

It's sort of amazing to me to be able to have such a new and different experience watching baseball as this was. I'll definitely try and catch Gallaudet in action in the future. Hopefully Mr. Pride can get the team moving in a positive direction and get some victories before the end of the season. I look forward, too, to talking with him again.

1 comment:

night owl said...

Very interesting.

I have interviewed deaf people a couple of different times. As a hearing person, it's a little difficult, but not as difficult as you think.

A game between two deaf squads is VERY INTENSE. I'm not sure why that is, but those who are deaf agree with that observation.

And you're right about York. Nasty traffic. Driving in Pennsylvania often scares me.