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NARRATOR: Baseball, America’s Pastime. The cry of the umpire. (Play ball!) The crack of the bat. The roar of the crowd. The melody of the organ. Curtis Pride played baseball. 11 years in the big leagues. Like all pro players Curt could hit the ball and run the bases. He could catch fly balls and throw runners out at home plate. There was really only one thing he couldn’t do on a ball field. He couldn’t hear those familiar sounds of the game. You see Curt was born deaf. He is one of only a handful of deaf players in the history of Major League Baseball, and the first in more than 60 years.
Curtis Pride: It never occurred to me that my hearing disability might prevent me from playing professional baseball because I always felt that even though I have a disability that I could succeed in whatever I wanted to do. My parents have always encouraged me to try things even if I felt they weren’t possible, they taught me to believe in myself that anything is possible.
NARRATOR: Sallie and John Pride knew their son was different from the other kids, but not just because he couldn’t hear.
John Pride: From the time he started playing competitive sports he was just so much faster, so much stronger and so much a better athlete than other kids his age and that really earned him their respect.
Sallie Pride: They wanted Curt on their team!
Curtis Pride: I remember when I was 6 years old and I first started playing T-ball, and I remember my first at bat I hit a home run and I was so excited. And after the game I came home and I told my parents, “Hey, I want to play professional baseball.”
NARRATOR: He became an outstanding multi-sport athlete, representing the United States at a Junior World Cup soccer tournament in China and winning a scholarship to play college basketball at William and Mary where he was a four-year starter. While there he signed his first professional baseball contract with the New York Mets. He was just 17.
John Pride: That a kid can go to college on a scholarship in one sport, play professionally in another, and graduate with a degree in 4 and a half years, that is what’s unique. I don’t think anybody’s ever done that since.
NARRATOR: After graduation he became a full-time baseball player. In September of 1993 he was called up to the Majors as a member of the Montreal Expos.
John Pride: My emotions were just running wild and I kept telling myself, ‘I’m not going to cry I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry’ but then when I got there in the stands and they called out the names of the players and they stood there and they started playing the national anthem, it just all came out. I couldn’t help it.
NARRATOR: It was in Montreal that Curt got his first major league hit, a run scoring double before a packed house at Olympic Stadium. What happened next came as a surprise.
Sallie Pride: Standing, standing ovation. Curt could not believe it. He looked up and they told him to come out and tip his hat and he’s thinking, ‘why?’ And so when he came out he realized that everyone was standing and cheering.
Curtis Pride: It was the most memorable moment of my entire baseball career. To be able to see that I had come a long ways and that I overcame a lot of adversity to reach that point. It was just a great feeling.
NARRATOR: Curt played professional baseball for 23 seasons. In 1996 he was the recipient of the Tony Conigliaro Award given annually to a player who has overcome adversity through his spirit, determination and courage. He retired after the 2008 season. Gallaudet (Gal-uh-det) University in Washington, DC looks a lot like any other liberal arts college in the United States. There is one major difference however; almost all of the students here are either deaf or hard of hearing. It is the only college in America where all programs are specifically designed to accommodate deaf students.
Gallaudet has a long history of athletic achievement. The football huddle was developed here to keep opponents from reading the team’s signals. The baseball program however has never had a lot of success. The Bison have only had two winning seasons since World War II and at one point had not won a conference game in almost 13 years, a string of over 150 games. But all of that was before Curtis Pride came to town.
Curtis Pride: I thought it was time for me to get away from the professional level for several years to get a different perspective of looking from the outside in. And I thought that working at Gallaudet would give me the opportunity to work with hearing impaired kids to help them develop, not only their baseball skills but also their confidence in being able to succeed in the hearing world because I know what these kids have gone through.
NARRATOR: Now in his third season at the helm, Coach Pride is starting to turn the program around. He has recruited a talented squad of deaf and hard of hearing players from around the country, and they are now beating teams that would outscore them by a dozen runs or more just a season or two ago.
Billy Bissell: It’s just a big honor to be part of his program because he has been part of the Major Leagues and I’ve learned so much from him.
Ryan Hastings: I think it’s very cool because he has a lot of baseball experience that he can give to the players here to help us develop the baseball skills and baseball program.
Curtis Pride: I’m having fun working with the kids, teaching them, you know, their life off of the field, to be able to help them achieve their dreams and goals, to help them improve their baseball skills. And we’ve got a great program, we’re headed the right direction.
NARRATOR: Despite the obstacles he has had to overcome, there are clearly no limits to what Curtis Pride has been able to achieve. And his parent’s think he is just getting started.
John Pride: He could be here and turn Gallaudet into a national power year after, or he could move on and possibly get back into professional baseball, who knows? He could be the first deaf manager of a major league team. I would not put any limits on what Curt could do given his history.
Curtis Pride: I have a motto that has stuck with me throughout my life; I always believe that if you work hard, good things will happen.