For many teen boys baseball is a calling. For one pitcher at Dallas' W.T. White High School, Cason Sherrod, it was almost a call he couldn't hear.
“He was born two and a half months premature and as a result he had permanent nerve damage. His mother and I didn’t realize he had a hearing deficit until he was about three,” said Slade Sherrod, Cason’s father.
Doctors determined Cason was 53 percent deaf. “So whatever y’all hear, I hear half of it,” said Cason Sherrod.
When Cason started school his parents didn’t have the funds to afford hearing aids, so Cason was forced to use whatever the school could provide.
“It was a little box and you have your headphones coming out and you put them in your ear. Everyone saw it, so you never wanted to wear it,” Cason explained.
By middle school, he stopped wearing his hearing aids.
“I was so embarrassed to wear them," Cason said. “I felt so different. I didn’t feel accepted.”
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“Just when he would go out, to be able to have a conversation — if there was distortion or noise in the background, he couldn’t interact socially,” said Slade Sherrod.
He said to compensate and started to read lips. But by high school, that could only take Cason so far.
“My grades were starting to slip in the classroom because I couldn’t hear what the teachers were saying," Cason said.
And then there was baseball.
“Practice was miserable. I didn't hear anybody and nobody knew I was hearing-impaired, so everybody thought I was just ignoring them,” said Cason.
“The noise of the crowd and calling plays, it limited his playing time — just cause you couldn’t communicate with him. That was real frustrating for him,” Slade said.
Cason was ready to hang up his cleats after high school, when a group of family friends rallied around him.
They teamed up with the Callier Center in Dallas to raise $7,500 to purchase Cason a set of hearing aids that would work for him and the game of baseball.
The high-end digital hearing aids are so small they are barely noticeable.
“Once I got them, it made a huge difference. You could hear the birds chirp for the first time ever,” Cason exclaimed.
“It changed his whole world,” said Slade.
Finally, Cason was the ordinary 17-year-old he wanted to be — at least that’s what he thought.
“Things just started falling into place. His mechanics got a lot better. It’s amazing the turnaround he’s been able to make. I can’t really explain it myself!” said his coach David Shepherd of W.T. White High School.
With the help of a new pitching coach, Cason literally began to hear his calling.
“We play Jesuit and he struck out 17-18 batters in nine innings. That’s when there happened to be a few scouts in the stands that night. That really put him on their radar,” Shepherd said.
Before he knew it, Cason was attracting the attention of every Major League Baseball organization. Some nights when he pitches, there are up to 18 scouts in the stands. His fastball is the stuff of high school legends.
“I’ve been clocked at 93-95 [miles per hour]. I’ve touched 96 a couple times,” Cason admitted.
“When you go to throw a bullpen and you look out there and they’ve got the radar guns on you and they’re watching every move you make, that’s got to be a lot of pressure,” his coach said.
But for number 21, it’s pressure that reminds him he is anything but ordinary.
“Cason is walking in the direction of his dreams and living the life he imagined, being able to hear,” said his father Slade.
“I used to think that everybody would always judge me because of my hearing, but that’s not the case. I’ve figured that out. I’ve finally accepted the person I am,” Cason said.
Cason is currently deciding between going to college to play baseball for a few years or possibly signing a contract with a major league team.