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Ryan Ketchner

Pitcher

Born deaf, Ryan Ketchner attended a preschool Deaf program and graduated from John I. Leonard High School in Greenacres, Florida, where he excelled in baseball. The high-school team, the Lancers, won two county championships, and, in his junior year, Ketchner tossed a no hitter. As he told sportswriter Ken Mandel, whose exclusive writeup appears in DEAF LIFE's August issue, “When I was playing, nobody knew I was deaf, so I finally felt normal. I was more determined to show people I could do anything despite my deafness. I wanted to prove I could do anything they could do even better.”

He postponed entering college, wanting to renter the pro ranks right away, and was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 10th round. He called it “one of the happiest moments of my life.” That was a high point—and he soon reached a low point, and saw for himself the “vicious, cut-throat” competition among minor-leaguers.

Curtis Pride understood what Ketchner was going through. Pride had visited Ketchner before he graduated from Leonard High, and “taught me to believe in myself, to work hard and do my best.” Ketchner did indeed learn to believe in himself and to not let anyone convince him he couldn’t achieve his ambitions. His story is one of sheer determination—and the refinement of skill.

Mandel describes how Ketchner relates to his teammates, his distinctive sense of humor, and how he met his wife, Tana (Stavinoha). His nickname is ”Eagle Eye.” He’s still something of “the class clown.”

Not surprisingly, Ketchner has himself become an inspiration and mentor to Deaf kids—which he appreciates and which helps inspire him in turn. “I want to be living proof that these kids can do anything that they want to. I want them to believe in themselves.”

Some of the nation’s best baseball is played on the Triiple-A level. All Triple-A players eagerly await the prospect of being “called up” to a major-league team. When and if that happens with Ketchner, there will be widespread rejoicing—and not just in the Deaf community either.

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