Ralston baseball player doesn't let deafness become obstacle

Posted at 6:57 PM, May 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-07 23:50:47-04

RALSTON, Neb. (KMTV) — When it comes to being there for his teammates, Zach Wheatley is all ears. The Ralston right fielder was born deaf and at age two had a cochlear implant installed on his right ear. The electronic device provides Wheatley with some sense of sound.

"I'm not going to go in the dugout and just be all sad because that's not what I want to put on the team," Wheatley said. "I want to bring positive energy and perform the best we can."

"If I had to model somebody to be the perfect teammate, Zach would be the perfect teammate," said Ralston head coach Tom Cooper. "He's about as low maintenance as a player as you can get. And I appreciate that."

During his first two years of high school, Zach had an interpreter with him at school and at baseball.

"I was like nervous to talk to people," said Wheatley. "Normally, I'd stand by myself because I was afraid I wasn't going to be able to hear what they were saying and I didn't know these people."

But for nearly the last two years, Wheatley's ability to read lips has improved so much he no longer needs an interpreter.

"Now senior year we like to joke around," Wheatley said. "We're having fun. I'm really happy I came to this program because it gave me everything I needed to become successful and the person I am right now."

"He's such a joy to have around the program," Cooper said. "I'm just going to miss this guy and his personality when he's gone."

What's more impressive than Zach's determination to communicate with the people in his life is his career goal after high school.

"I've been thinking about becoming a brain surgeon," said Wheatley. "Because when I went for surgery, I had a doctor put a cochlear implant into me, like a little piece and I want to be able to do the same thing for other kids who are deaf just like I was. And so i think it'd be cool to be the doctor who already experienced it."

In the meantime, Wheatley will attack the rest of his days in Ralston head on, while encouraging others who deal with deafness to do the same.

"Try something new and just don't let anything stop you," Wheatley said. "Don't have your disability stop you from doing what you want to do. I want them to stand up for themselves."

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