One day last October, the Harvard baseball team met its newest teammate.
It was Scout Day for head coach Joe Walsh’s hopeful squad, a day on which talent representatives from major league clubs arrive with pens and pads and eyes carefully trained to pick out the best the amateur baseball ranks have to offer. It was a time for Crimson prospects to look their best, but for them and their new student manager, freshman West Resendes, it was also the start of a season, a connection, a bond.
“They were very warm and welcoming, but it was a little awkward because I didn’t know if they would accept me right away,” Resendes recalls. “I don’t fit with the baseball player mold.”
Resendes heard sounds for the first time when he was nine years old. At that age, he received double cochlear implants, which nearly completely reversed the deafness with which he was born. The danger of injury kept him from participating in any contact sports—he’s picked up squash for the first time at Harvard—but he needed to find a way to have them in his life. [SEE CORRECTION BELOW]
“How do I stay involved with sports?” he recalls asking himself as an incoming freshman at St. George’s, a preparatory school in Newport, R.I. He reflects now that “there’s a special bond that you can only find between teammates. You can’t find it in other social groups.”
At St. George’s, Resendes served as the team manager and statistics keeper for the football and baseball teams. When he arrived at Harvard last September, the pull to remain a teammate continued. But in their first meeting, Resendes and Walsh realized an unexpected bond that found its strength far beyond their favorite game.
Walsh’s 17-year-old daughter has a similar hearing handicap, and the Walsh family has been seeing various doctors about her condition for the past nine years.
“As I’m listening to West,” Walsh says, remembering that first meeting, “I’m thinking about my daughter at the same time.
“But soon, the conversation turned to baseball, just as it should have.”
That first meeting led to Scout Day, and fall led to winter and the start of Resendes’ responsibilities with the team. At practice, he filled a number of roles: feeding pitching machines, setting up bases and other equipment for drills, helping players on the batting tees—as captain Harry Douglas puts it, “all the little things that need to get done.”
His real value was not only in his hard work, but also an attitude that made those around him reconsider their own way of interacting with others.
“Never did I know that West was going to work as hard as he did and gain the admiration of the players like he has,” Walsh admits.
“He’s taught me a bit of patience this year,” he adds. “I’m so used to screaming orders out, and I certainly appreciate that I had to slow down a little bit and talk directly to him. Before he starts to get going, he wants to know, ‘How was your day?’ When somebody has an approach like that, you just can’t help but be impressed.”
At Harvard, Resendes has kept himself busy away from O’Donnell Field. Among his extracurricular commitments is his direction of the Committee on Deaf Awareness (CODA), a student group under the Phillips Brooks House Association’s (PBHA) umbrella of service programs. Two weeks ago, Resendes and CODA organized Deaf Awareness Week, which included various speakers and campus events.
The cost of the week-long program, which its director calls “a huge success,” was the time that Resendes would have normally spent with his baseball teammates.
“It was heart-wrenching to be away from the team during that period of time,” Resendes recalls.
That closeness indicates the distance he and his teammates have traveled since their first meeting on Scout Day. Plenty of these metaphorical miles were logged during the team’s spring break trip to Louisiana, where, sandwiched in between athletes on van rides to and from games and practices, Resendes began to feel like part of a team.
“It was just great to see someone with that kind of enthusiasm for life and baseball and people,” Walsh remembers. “He knew that he was part of something.”
West Resendes is listed on the official Harvard baseball roster as a “utility player,” complete with height and weight. His inclusion represents the conclusion of his development into a valued team player, among those who he considers “absolutely his teammates.” Douglas and his fellow seniors took responsibility for this development.
“[Douglas] definitely took me under his wing when he met me for the first time,” Resendes says. “He didn’t say this, but I think he was thinking, ‘I’ll take care of you.’”
Walsh doesn’t believe Resendes needs much taking care of, and speaks of the ease with which his manager has adjusted not only to life as a member of a sports team, but also to life as a newly arrived Harvard student—a sizeable challenge in itself.
“He’s such a self-starter, an initiator,” he says. “Because of his personality, I don’t think he considers [his condition] a handicap, and I don’t think the guys do either.”
Resendes may not fit the mold of a baseball player, but the mold of a teammate fits to everyone’s satisfaction.
—Staff writer Emily W. Cunningham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The April 30 sports article "Freshman Manager Becomes Teammate" incorrectly stated that West Resendes had double cochlear implants. In fact, he received only one cochlear implant.