IM this article to a friend!

July 17, 2003

Deaf Baseball Team Set to Make Some Noise

From: Korea Times, South Korea - Jul 17, 2003

By Kim Tae-gyu
Staff Reporter

A team made up of 10 deaf high schoolers will compete in the upcoming Phoenix Cup, the biggest high school baseball tournament of the yeare, which gets underway on August 5 in Seoul's Tongdaemun Stadium.

Chongju Sacred Heart School for the Deaf in North Chungchong Province will take part in the championship for the first time since the school's inauguration last September and play against their hearing-able counterparts, most of whom are much bigger and stronger than them.

Though the team's prospects for the 32 nd Cup is by no means bright, manager Kim In-tai was absolutely positive about his boys' participation in competitive baseball.

''We have just 10 players picked out of a 25-man pool and I don't think we can beat out the high school powerhouses in the Phoenix Cup,'' the 46-year-old said. ''But my students can gain mental fortitude through the games and that's what I expect most from the competition.''

Kim, a lifetime ballplayer, took charge of the team from its very beginning. Though he had hard time communicating with the students because he didn't know sign language, things improved as time passed.

''In baseball, sound is more important in communicating and playing than most people think. For one thing, an outfielder's range is almost halved if you can't make a quick start on hearing the crack of the bat.

''At first it was really tough to explain the strategies and rules to my pupils. But as we played together they began to feel those things and I didn't have to use my awkward sign language so much,'' Kim explained.

Though Kim's side is likely to be eliminated early, they will assuredly be a symbol for the hearing impaired who just need to be given a chance to be treated just like everyone else, the manager said.

''If we can produce one professional player in the future, he can serve as a role model for the deaf. We need such a thing, which gives a precious message that they shouldn't sit on the sideline even if they have limitations,'' Kim said.

Actually a hard-of-hearing player changed baseball's picture significantly. It is commonly believed that the first deaf Major Leaguer Dummy Hoy, who played in the late 1890s, is responsible for the umpire giving hand signals for balls and strikes.

The deaf team's trials gained recognition and a boost as Samsung Lions slugger Lee Seung-yeop's promise to donate a million won ($850) to the team for every home run he hits over 40. Currently Lee has 37.

Their run will be also bolstered by their schoolmates as the Chongju-based school prepares for a large-scale cheering campaign for the Cup. The cheerers will use drums because though their deaf friends can't hear the noise but they can feel the beats made by the percussion instruments.

Kim's charges have never raised their voices on their own behalf. Should they make noise in the Phoenix Cup, their accomplishments will loom even larger not only for them but also for the deaf and disabled throughout the nation.

Copyright© All rights reserved.