H.S. baseball: North Jersey deaf athlete given waiver by NJSIAA – NorthJersey.com

Dante Washington poses in his hometown of Garfield.

HACKENSACK — The lanky teenager stared out at the empty football field, lost within himself.

Dante Washington once thought it was all over.

He no longer was a high school athlete. No more baseball. No more football. All he had to look forward to was a senior year in which he would watch others play.

North Jersey deaf athlete pleads for a waiver to play high school sports

Washington, a deaf Garfield resident enrolled in the Bergen County Special Services school district, turned 19 in July, making him ineligible to compete as a senior for Hackensack High School.

“I thought that was it,” he said Monday through sign-language interpreter Dianne Fannell. “My sports career just felt so over. It’s done.”

But a smile then crossed his face as he revealed the good news — not perfect news, but good news just the same. The NJSIAA granted him a waiver to play baseball one last season. It was swayed by Washington’s appeal, which argued his impairment affected his skill development and forced him to repeat second and third grade.

Hackensack made the appeal on Washington’s behalf because it’s a host school site for the special services program. It did not request a waiver for football because he had suited up for Garfield during his first three seasons. But the state association rarely grants age waivers in football because of the contact nature of the sport.

Washington may have lost one passion, but another was returned.

“I’m just happy I have baseball,” said Washington, who hopes to attend Gallaudet University in the fall of 2016. “That will be the one last thing I get to play.”

Larry White, an NJSIAA assistant director, said the association’s eligibility committee found the appeal met the criteria “for truly extenuating circumstances beyond the student’s control.”

Washington, a soft-spoken, 5-foot-11, 148-pound outfielder and pitcher, has a cochlear implant and can read lips, but relies on interpreters such as Fannell during practices and games. Without them, he misses about half of what his coaches and teammates say.

Washington played mostly JV baseball last season. Unable to play football in the fall, he plans to serve as a Hackensack student-manager.

“I’m glad that the state gave us the waiver,” athletic director David Petrella said. “It was not his fault. He repeated two grades. But his transcripts here are impeccable. His grades are off the charts. He’s a great kid, too.”


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