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Deaf culture at the diamond

If you want to get an earful, ask Corey McArthur about cochlear implants.

The surgically-implanted neuroprosthetic device can help to restore a partial sense of sound for someone with profound hearing loss.

“Fine, good, it helps, but I don’t think kids should be completely dependent on cochlear implants,” said McArthur.

What the 21-year-old said he doesn’t want children — whether deaf, hard of hearing, or fully hearing — to miss out on is the culture and community of American Sign Language.

Hearing children, too, should have exposure to ASL, McArthur believes.

“If you give a baby sign language, they are going to be able to learn a sound-based language easier and quicker, because it gives them a visual aspect to associate with and learn language faster,” he said.

Thought he’s only in Southern Oregon for the summer as a communications and marketing intern with the Medford Rogues, McArthur will leave having brought his passion for connecting deaf and hearing communities.

He was the catalyst for transforming the Rogues’ June 19 home game at Harry & David Field into the team’s first-ever ASL Culture Night.

“I’m excited,” said McArthur, who will head back to Pepperdine University for his senior year as a business administration major. “Hopefully people will just know a little bit more, and hopefully they’ll share it with someone else.”

The game will feature ASL translation for all of the PA announcements, as well as fun facts about deaf culture.

Half of the proceeds raised through the game’s ticket raffle will be donated to Crater High School’s Deaf Academic Bowl team.

That’s Steve Wasserman’s piece. He’s a 35-year veteran of the Rogue Valley, a former coach for Crater’s Deaf Academic Bowl team and now an ASL instructor at Southern Oregon University.

Wasserman, using his strong local connections, brought students into the designing process for the event.

He’s never been to a Rogues game before, he said.

“I’m thrilled to be able to come and see professional baseball players,” he said, signing while he spoke. “At the same time, I’m excited to bring in the deaf community to participate and socialize and to support the Crater High School team.”

The competition is sponsored by Gallaudet University, the “world’s only university designed to be barrier-free for deaf and hard-of-hearing students,” according to its website.

Crater students are working to raise $10,000, said Samantha Castaneda, an incoming senior at Crater who will be competing for her fourth time this year.

“It’s about getting to socialize with other students, because at our school, there’s a small amount of deaf and hard of hearing students,” she said. “And you already know all of them. But when you go to compete, there’s students from different areas across the country, different personalities and it is fascinating learning about them.”

Castaneda is a veteran by this time, as well as an advocate for the deaf community locally. She’ll be one of the students to perform the National Anthem in ASL on Wednesday night.

“I hope the hearing people will view deaf people more equal, and not so below,” she said. “Because that’s the first assumption.”

McArthur is also familiar with the divide between hearing and deaf communities. He even occupies a unique space between them, as the hearing child of two deaf parents — who he describes as “the sweetest, most amazing and most intelligent people I have ever known.”

He said that he wouldn’t trade growing up with ASL as his primary language.

It’s why McArthur wants hearing and deaf people alike to have more access to it.

“Honestly, my biggest thing is just, if a hearing couple goes home and has a deaf child someday, instead of going, “Oh my God, we’re screwed,” they’ll say, ‘you know what, we can do this,’ ” he said.

Focusing on relationship and communication is a key part of that, McArthur said.

“Instead of making them conform to your world ... give your kid a chance, to set them up to be successful,” he said. “Instead of setting yourself up to be comfortable.”

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

Samantha Castaneda, a student at Crater High School, makes the sign for "baseball" at Harry & David Field in Medford on Tuesday. The Medford Rogues will host and ASL culture night during Wednesday's game to help raise money for the Crater's Deaf Academic Bowl team.{ }Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune