Deaf Baseball Players You May See in the Majors Soon
Every June, baseball players throughout the country anxiously await a phone call from a Major League Baseball team in which they’re informed they’ve been picked in the annual First-Year Player Draft. Now, there are two hopefuls with one very singular feature setting them apart from the other players: they are both deaf.
These two players are Skip Flanagan, who plays for Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in New York, and Cason Sherrod, a standout pitcher at Dallas’ W.T. White High School in Texas. Although only in high school, Sherrod is already receiving interest from pro scouts.
Skip Flanagan, a junior first-baseman at RIT, spent his youth playing baseball. He attended a mainstream high school where he was the only deaf student. Flanagan played baseball for two years there. Then, in 2011, Flanagan was named to the All-Scholastic team by the Boston Globe and Boston Herald, and earned a 2011 Eastern Athletic All-star Award. Flanagan was so good in high school that he drew the attention of Curtis Pride, the most recent deaf Major League Baseball player and current head coach of the Gallaudet University baseball team. Despite being recruited to play for Pride at Gallaudet, Flanagan opted to attend RIT.
His decision seems to have worked out very well. Flanagan is an everyday starter and a productive cleanup hitter for the Tigers. He currently bats .265 and leads the team in triples with five and RBIs with 29.2 His first year, he struck out 10 batters against Union College, a college career highlight for him. With one more collegiate season left for him, Flanagan is eying the next level. Only time will tell if we will see him in the majors.
Cason Sherrod, now a standout high school pitcher, struggled playing baseball at a young age due to the awkwardness he experienced having to wear his hearing aids, which comprised of a box and some headphones. By middle school, his embarrassment was so great he stopped wearing his hearing aids altogether. Since Sherrod couldn’t hear teammates or coaches he learned to read lips. However, this strategy only took him so far. His freshman year he nearly gave up on baseball because of the difficulties he encountered as a deaf player.
Fortunately, a “group of family friends[… ]teamed up with the Callier Center in Dallas to raise $7,500 to purchase Cason a set of hearing aids.”3 This led to a vast improvement in Cason’s ability to play baseball.
He found himself improving in pitching and even caught the attention of pro scouts with a fastball that touches 96 MPH. To put his feat into perspective, in 2012, just 62 out of approximately 330-360 MLB pitchers threw 96 MPH or harder for at least quarter of their pitches.4 If this is any indication, Sherrod certainly has a very good chance of ending up in the pros someday soon. We’ll have to wait a few years to see, though. He recently committed to play baseball at Texas A&M University.5
1 National Technical Institute for the Deaf: RIT. “Success Stories: Skip Flanagan”
2 RIT Athletics. “RIT Season Statistics”
Mandelaro, Jim. “Deafness doesn’t impair RIT baseball player Skip Flanagan”
Democrat & Chronicle.
3 Guerra, Amanda. “Texas Teen Overcomes Hearing Loss to Become Major League Prospect” NBC-Dallas-Fort Worth.
4 Futterman, Matthew. “Baseball 2013: Here Come the Flamethrowers” Wall Street Journal.
Wixon, Matt. “Cason Sherrod will silence you and the crowd and let his 96 MPH fastball speak volumes” The Dallas
Morning News: SportsDayHS
5 Riddle, Greg. “W.T. White pitcher Cason Sherrod commits to Texas A&M for baseball” The Dallas Morning News