As a versatile athlete with the ability to play multiple positions, Austin DesRoche is the player many St. Louis Community College fans find themselves applauding.
On a windy or rainy day, the deaf multi-tool player hardly hears any of it.
“I started playing baseball when I was 4-years-old and I haven’t stopped since,” DesRoche said. “I got a cochlear implant put in when I was eight.”
Growing up, DesRoche fought through limited hearing to stand out in any game he played, receiving praise from teammates, coaches and even opponents.
“I’ve had coaches from other teams come up to me and tell me they have so much respect for me to play the way I do,” DesRoche said.
Now as a sophomore for STLCC, Head Coach Scott Goodrich explains DesRoche is no longer seen as a “good deaf player” but a standout player, who happens to be deaf.
“I’ve been coaching for 16 years,” Goodrich said. “Defensively, he’s easily in the conversation for the best shortstop we’ve ever had.”
Where DesRoche lacks in hearing he has always more than made up for in baseball IQ and instincts.
“It’s never hindered anything from a coaching standpoint,” Goodrich said. “He’s such a smart player that we work through it pretty easily.”
The main difficulties coach Goodrich and DesRoche encounter on the field are distance.
“It kind of gets in the way when he’s running the bases and he’s on second,” Goodrich said. “As a baserunner you’re so reliant on communication that we really have to be on the same page. Luckily he’s never been picked off.”
While the distance between Goodrich and DesRoche makes communication difficult, DesRoche says the only trouble for him is when weather prohibits him from communicating with his teammates.
“Sometimes if it’s real windy or raining my cochlear implant loses signal,” DesRoche said. “I always tell my teammates, ‘if it’s windy or anything, you’re going to have to holler’ or, ‘if I call you off, just let me have it.’”
While limited communication both on the field and on the bases may seem like a huge chore in and of itself, the last time Goodrich and DesRoche even brought up his disability was during recruitment.
“We were texting when I was recruiting him and I said, ‘let me know a good time I can call you,’ and he told me he was deaf so texting was the best way for him to communicate,” Goodrich said. “Other than that, it doesn’t really come up, we don’t even talk about it.”
DesRoche has progressed like any other player on the field, off the field has been no different. DesRoche took all adjustments in stride and his relationships with teammates aren’t that of an outcast, but that of a friend.
“Nobody’s ever bothered me,” DesRoche said. “My teammates give me crap and stuff, but it’s nothing serious.”
Goodrich also finds humor in the same place as everybody else, including DesRoche.
“It’s kind of funny that whenever I need something and I yell to a guy, it’s always Austin who’s standing right there,” Goodrich said. “I’ll start yelling something and then I’m like, ‘oh, it’s Austin.’ Every time, he’s always the one standing there. I also remember one time his implant came out when he was running the bases so he had to run back over and grab it.”
Hardly a rarity.
“That happens all the time,” DesRoche said. “My hair’s long so my magnet doesn’t stick so well. I can feel it when it’s coming out so I try to catch it if I feel it slipping.”
In the heat of the moment, the implant falling out is often of little concern to DesRoche.
“Insurance covers it,” DesRoche said.
With DesRoche’s final season as an Archer underway, Goodrich continues battling the only major struggle he’s ever faced with DesRoche, where to play him.
“The problem is pitching,” Goodrich said. “He’s such a great shortstop that we hate to use him as a pitcher and lose him out in the field, but he’s one of our best pitchers at the same time.”
DesRoche is already looking to the future and has his sights set on a four-year university. With a couple of schools already interested, DesRoche is as confident in his future as he is in his baseball track record.
“I just go out there and compete,” DesRoche said. “I’m just trying to be better than the next guy and in the last couple of years I think I’ve proved I’m just as good, if not better than most other guys.”
Article by: Walker Van Wey – Lindenwood University and you can find him on Twitter @Walker_VanWey