By: Kyle Liebler - March 16, 2010
Overcoming the Odds: The Story of a Silent Spirit
Making a 4A Varsity Baseball team as a sophomore is something challenging in itself, but Michael Patrick who attends Northwestern High School in Rock Hill deals with challenges every day. Just looking at him or watching him play you would never know there was anything different about him, but Patrick has a severe sensorineural hearing loss or in layman's terms a severe permanent hearing loss. Although he has a disability, this does not stop him from competing at the top level. This year Patrick has a shot at a starting position in the outfield for the Trojans who will be defending their Region three championship this season.
Other players with his same disability as Patrick have succeeded at the highest level. Curtis Pride, who briefly played in the major leagues for the Atlanta Braves and New York Yankees and also had a long successful minor league career, is also profoundly deaf. Like Pride, Patrick plays outfield a position that is very communication based. While it would be easier if he played a position or even sport with less communication, Patrick not only gets the job done, but is one of the best young outfielders I have seen in the upper state.
You may be wondering to yourself how Patrick communicates with his teammates on and off the field. Patrick who wears hearing aids off the field, chooses not to on the field because of a couple of reasons, first of all he says they are not supposed to get wet and when he sweats it might mess them up and second he states that when he wears a hat or a helmet they do not fit or work properly anyway. Although he can hear some when he is not wearing his hearing aids, he has become really good at reading lips and body language to understand what players and coaches are telling him. While Patrick cannot hear the ball off the bat, you would are unable to tell by the way he tracks downs baseballs waiving his teammates off in centerfield. Because of his disability his teammates use hand signals to communicate for just about everything, whether it is calling for a baseball or shifting for a certain hitter.
While it would be easy for someone with any type of disability to give up or use their disability as a crutch, Patrick does not believe in excuses. He has always been taught to battle through adversity and work hard toward goals he has set for himself on and off the field. Patrick explained that it is important to wake up every morning and say to yourself, what kind of person do I want to be and what kind of attitude are am I going to have each and every day. Patrick told me "The biggest thing that motivates me is that I hate losing more than I like winning, and I sure like winning. Using my disability as a crutch would be a loss for me."
This past fall Patrick played centerfield and batted third for the CBC Diamond Rats, a premier team out of Charlotte, North Carolina. He batted .375 with a HR and 19 RBI in 18 showcase games as his team played in some of the Southeast's top tournaments. Over the past year with intense strength training Patrick has put on twenty pounds of solid muscle. He stands at six feet tall and weighs 170 pounds. In addition to weight training, weekly speed and agility training has helped him drop his 60 time almost a half second. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever seen and there is no question in my mind that Patrick will attain his main goal to play at the next level and to get a college degree.
Patrick is known for not only his play, but his hustle. He might be the last out in an inning, but somehow he is the first one to his position, as he hustles back to the dugout and sprints to his position. This is one of the traits that set him apart from some of the other young players in this game. Hustle and desire are not something you can teach a ball player and Patrick has both. This is the reason why it is a privilege for me to write about Michael Patrick, as it is not his disability that makes him stand out, it but also his passion, motivation and love for the game of baseball.