Incredible Story Of Troy’s Chase Smartt

Editor/Collegiate Baseball

TROY, Ala. — Troy University sophomore catcher Chase Smartt is one of the amazing stories of college baseball.

Born premature, he suffered from nerve damage in his ear canals.

He had a 98 percent hearing loss which means Smartt is profoundly deaf.

As a baby, he could barely hear the equivalent of a jet engine starting up. Beyond that, there was silence, a frightening prospect for a newborn introduced to a world filled with sounds.

At 16 months old, his condition was confirmed to his loving parents, Mark and Debbie.

Mark is the current head baseball coach at Troy University. At the time, he was an assistant at Livingston University, a school later renamed the University of West Alabama.

Mark and Debbie had to do a lot of soul searching and ask themselves if their son should be sentenced to a life without sound and have him begin learning sign language or research delicate surgery.

After studying all options and consulting with hearing specialists, they decided on Cochlear implant surgery for Chase’s right ear which typically costs $50,000-$60,000.

The big problem was that the facility that had the special surgeon to perform this delicate procedure was in Birmingham, Ala. some two hours away. Any time an issue came up with the device, it meant a 2-hour drive up and back.

With this procedure, a device that is about the size of a quarter and thickness of two quarters, is surgically placed behind the ear within the skull. An external apparatus which has a magnet attaches to the internal device from outside the ear.

This entire hardware structure serves as the eardrum as impulses are sent directly to the auditory nerve which carries sound signals to your brain. The implant doesn’t make you hear normally again, but it can help with sounds.

“The sounds Chase hears must be interpreted through extensive training from a young age,” said Mark.

 “He trained as a young child all the way through elementary school and even to high school to learn how to hear.

“Chase is a remarkable story who has overcome so much in his life to be an NCAA Division I catcher. To see him today, if you didn’t see an external piece around his right ear, you would never know he was any different than anybody else.

“He looks and acts the same as everybody his age.”

Mark said that the decision for his son to go under the knife was hardly an easy one considering Chase received the Cochlear implant at the ripe age of two years and two months.

“We had two choices to make. We could go with the hearing loss community, and that option is sign language for the rest of your life.

“Instead, we decided to go with the hearing world. Quite frankly, the hearing loss community frowns on the use of the Cochlear implant. They feel hearing loss is a natural process, and you should embrace that. I don’t have an argument either way. My wife and I decided, with plenty of study, family counsel and prayer that the hearing world would be better for our son. And that is why we chose the surgical path.

“It has allowed Chase to hear and communicate throughout his 21 years of life. To me, it has helped make him who he is.

“He has learned to deal with adversity and overcome obstacles without even knowing it. It is who he’s been and what he does. So I’m really proud of all he has accomplished. He was a high school baseball sensation and holds several Alabama state records and was drafted by professional baseball (Atlanta Braves in the 35th round) out of high school.”

Chase went to Charles Henderson H.S. (Troy, Ala.) and put up monster numbers as a senior as he hit .523 with 7 homers, 50 RBI and scored 54 runs.

He ultimately decided to play baseball at Troy for his dad and has blossomed into one of the superb catchers in college baseball.

He does a fabulous job of handling the pitching staff at Troy and has only allowed 12 stolen bases in 18 attempts this season.

He started in 54 of 57 games as a freshman in 2016 (40 as a catcher, 13 at third base and 1 at shortstop), and this year has started all 18 games at catcher.

Mark said that Chase has had four surgeries over the years.

To read more of this story or subscribe to Collegiate Baseball, CLICK HERE. The rest of the story explains the four surgeries he underwent, the potential danger in catching, why he shuts off his implant when he hits and how he has become a secret weapon during games as he can read lips from opposing teams like a pro, plus more.