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Madison's Villasenor thrives in two worlds

04/08/2013, 10:19am PDT
By Terry Monahan

Outfielder-pitcher Andy Villasenor of Madison has overcome deafness to play baseball.

A hearing impairment hasn't kept Andy Villasenor from thriving with the Madison baseball team.

— The very first sound Andy Villasenor ever heard was his mother Carmen’s voice.

That moment came when he was 8-years-old.

The second sound he heard was the ice maker in the family’s refrigerator.

Up to that point in his life, Villasenor, now a senior outfielder-left-handed pitcher at Madison High, had not heard a sound after losing his hearing when he was 10-months-old as a result of catching meningitis.

Fitted with cochlear implants in both ears a decade ago to provide a new sense of sound, which he wears even during games, and with the aid of sign language interpreters provided by the San Diego School District at Madison, a magnet school in the district for the deaf program, Villasenor has flourished both in the classroom and also on the baseball field.

He has an interpreter with him at games. Anna Molina and Amy Saldivar, both of whom work at Madison, share the duties, going to all games and practices, sitting in the dugout during games and even, as they do for deaf players on the football team, the locker room.

Villasenor is a bit uncomfortable with all the attention his hearing condition has brought his way.

But, unlike most teenagers with a handicap who are perceived to be different, Villasenor, who been offered a scholarship by Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., refused to run and hide from the world.

He has never been afraid to have people notice him. He is very comfortable with who he is and what he can do.

Nothing seems to get in his way.

“I interact with both worlds, the hearing and the impaired,’’ Villasenor said through Saldivar. “Sometimes I understand. Sometimes I don’t. A one-on-one conversation I can hear a little.’’

Not much comfort when you’re playing in left field or taking a lead off second base and the base coach can’t be of as much help.

Villasenor has just found a way to keep playing.

Some of his Warhawk teammates have taken sign language classes.

Some don’t know how to sign but have developed a line of communication with Villasenor, who has raised his batting average to .311 this season thanks to a .500 hitting streak (11-for-22) that includes five RBIs and seven runs scored in the last six games since the start of the Lions Tournament.

“Andy and I have our own signs on the field,’’ Warhawk senior Garrett Dollarhyde said. “We use colors on our jerseys as a sign of what he’s supposed to do.

“I thought it would be difficult when we played on the same team in seventh grade. We couldn’t talk to each other, so we found our own language.

“Nothing sets Andy apart on this team. He’s just another member of the family, one of our teammates.’’

Another adjustment the Warhawks (9-6 overall) have made deals with those moments when normally they would applaud a base hit or a good defensive play in the outfield by Villasenor.

Instead of making noise, they raise their arms like they’re under arrest and wave their hands back and forth.

“They’re clapping,’’ Madison coach Robert Lovato said. “It’s kind of funny to hear opposing players and fans start heckling him. He can’t hear them.’’

“They’re wasting their time,’’ Dollarhyde added.

Unlike what Villasenor has been doing on the field and in life.

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