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July 3, 2003


From: Times Picayune, LA - Jul 3, 2003

Deaf ball player, 6, inspiring to others

Thursday July 03, 2003

By Earl Hodges
Contributing writer

At the tender age of 6, Chad Brown is already proving he has the heart of a true champion.

Chad, who plays right field for the 6-, 7- and 8-year-old baseball team at Jesse Owens Playground in River Ridge, has been deaf since meningitis took away his hearing when he was an infant.

"I've never coached a child like Chad," said Kendall Jackson, head coach for the Owens team. "He tries so hard and he inspires everyone who watches him play."

This is Chad's first season playing competitive sports. And by all indication, it won't be his last.

"Chad doesn't let anything stop him," said his mother, Shanomae Brown of River Ridge. "Sometimes I forget that he is handicapped because Chad is so determined to do everything that other kids do."

Chad's two older brothers, Philip, 11, and Justin, 8, also play baseball at Owens. When Chad saw them playing, his mother said, he kept asking her if he could also play.

Chad communicates with his family and friends by using sign language.

"I knew the coaches didn't know sign language so I wasn't sure if it would be possible," Brown said. "But I finally decided to contact the playground and ask if he could play."

Melvin Robertson, the supervisor at Owens, said he didn't hesitate to welcome Chad to the sports program.

"We try to include every kid who wants to participate in sports," Robertson said. "Chad has shown other kids that they shouldn't sit on the sidelines, even if they have limitations."

Brown said she agreed to attend as many practices as possible so she could communicate to Chad the coaches' instructions.

In his first game June 9, Chad got his very first hit when Owens played the Delta Braves. And Chad's mother said she knew there would be no stopping him then.

"He was so excited after his first game and I was so proud of him," Brown said.

"I like to run, hit the ball and have fun," added Chad, by way of his mother using sign language.

"Chad just won't give up," said Willie Coats, the team's assistant coach. "Every time he plays, he gives it his all. Some of us who don't have handicaps can learn a lot from Chad about always doing our best."

"Everyone on the team likes Chad," said Troy Bell, one of Chad's teammates. "We cheer for him when he hits the ball. And it makes me feel good watching Chad play."

Brown said she hopes that Chad, who will start first grade in August at Hazel Park/Hilda Knoff Elementary School in River Ridge, will serve as an inspiration to other children.

"There are lots of kids who want to play sports but think they can't do it," Brown said. "Watching Chad play and knowing all that he has had to overcome should encourage them to at least try."

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