North County’s Gregg Hauck doesn’t let disability trump talent on baseball diamond

Born with limited use of his right arm, North County’s Gregg Hauck has found a way to be one of Anne Arundel County’s best outfielder. (Nick Plum for Synthesis/Koubaroulis LLC./The Washington Post)

As the North County baseball team made the hour-long bus ride to Harwood for Monday’s contest at Southern High School, Knights senior Gregg Hauck stared out the window, searching for motivation.

The Anne Arundel County matchup marked the pitcher’s first start of the season, but the lefty felt anything but well-rested.

Hauck’s fatigue spilled into his warmup session, where a sore shoulder only further altered his off-target pitches. Working the outside edges of the strike zone would have to do, Hauck thought as he took the mound, fully bracing for the worst.

Ultimately, Hauck threw only 67 pitches in five innings; that’s all it took for North County to complete a 17-0 mercy-rule win and for Hauck to seal his first career no-hitter.

“It was weird because I felt like I was going to do really bad at first,” Hauck said. “I don’t know what it was, but it feels pretty neat now to have thrown a no-hitter.”


North County outfielder Greg Hauck plays baseball despite limited use of one arm, due to a birth injury. (Jonathan Newton/THE WASHINGTON POST)

The impressive feat in difficult circumstances is nothing new for the 18-year-old.

A birth injury left Hauck with limited mobility in his right arm and of all the sports he loves, baseball requires the most adjustment.

Holding a bat and picking up items are no problem but without full range of motion, Hauck must employ a swift, subtle glove-and-ball switch when patrolling the outfield or manning the mound. After catching the baseball with his left-handed glove, Hauck snatches the glove off with his right hand while quickly rolling the ball back into his left for the throw.

“I had second thoughts about playing high school baseball because I was afraid people were going to make fun of me,” Hauck said. “But my soccer coach told me to at least try it out so I would know what it was like and not regret my decision. I gave it a shot, and I’m glad I did because I would have regretted not playing.”

So would his North County coaches and teammates. Hauck earned all-county honors last year and so far this season, the senior has justified his spot on the MSBCA preseason all-state team, using a fundamental swiping motion rather than a powerful swing to hit .500 with five RBI and a triple for the Knights (8-2).

While the injury limits his power numbers, the altered plate approach is barely noticeable to the naked eye.

But it’s soccer, not baseball, that is Hauck’s best sport. The four-year starter and first team All-Met midfielder is committed to play at UMBC, where he plans to study biology and pursue a career in physical therapy.


Gregg Hauk is a standout baseball player, who will play soccer in college at UMBC. (Jonathan Newton/THE WASHINGTON POST)
‘Years of tears’

A future in sports appeared out of the question after Hauck sustained a brachial plexus injury during birth, damaging the nerves in the neck that conduct the signals that control muscles in the shoulder, arm, elbow, wrist, hands and fingers. This type of birth injury occurs in about one in every 1,000 births and in Hauck’s instance, doctors initially talked of amputating his right limb.

“His arm was almost lifeless and dead,” said Hauck’s mother, Sharlene.

Two years would pass before Sharlene and her husband, Ron, could determine how much their son’s development would be impaired. It was then that Gregg proved able to bring his right hand to his mouth, matching the most function any surgical procedure could produce and providing a foundation for his physical therapy sessions.

As he grew, Hauck took a liking to sports, leading to constant backyard battles with his older brother Brad and beginning a period that his mom affectionately called “years of tears.”

“My brother would never let me win, no matter what, so I would always go in the house crying to my parents,” Hauck said. “I think that gave me the fight I have now. I hate losing because I lost so much as a little kid.”

One day, while watching his dad and two brothers play catch, Hauck picked up a glove and did what came natural, catching the ball before carefully removing the glove and throwing the ball back with his left arm.

Hauck became so good that when he entered the Cal Ripken metro youth league as a 6-year-old, he played up two age groups on the Maryland Orioles.

As pitcher, catcher, outfielder and first baseman, Hauck caught the attention of the Baltimore Orioles legend himself. Ripken encouraged Hauck to look up videos of Jim Abbott, the former major league pitcher who excelled with no right hand.

“With Gregg [as an outfielder], you’re talking about a ball being hit maybe 100 feet away or 20 feet away from him or on the run, and he’s making plays like someone without a disability,” said DeMatha Coach Sean O’Connor, who coached Hauck on Team Maryland in the Perfect Game/Evoshield National Championships this past summer. “It’s amazing.”

Not everyone has been so enamored of Hauck’s adjusted style of play.

One parent, after seeing Hauck field and throw a ball, ignorantly chastised the Maryland Orioles for not being able to afford the right gloves. On days Hauck pitched, kids would sometimes gather behind the fence, gawking at “the kid with one arm.”

The condition even almost got Hauck ejected from a game. Rather than ask why the 8-year-old catcher employed his glove switch-and-throw for three-plus innings, an umpire threatened to toss Hauck from the contest if his coach didn’t get him a right-handed mitt.

“I’m just thinking in my head, ‘Are you serious?’ ” recalled Hauck, who now makes a point to alert umpires of his condition during out-of-county games.

Eventually, the coach and tournament director talked down the umpire, who apologized to Hauck and his parents the next day.

‘Why stop now?’

It wasn’t until Hauck considered playing baseball at North County as a freshman that he began to harbor reservations.

With the spring sports season just days away, Knights soccer Coach Scott McGuire asked Hauck if he planned on trying out for baseball. The freshman shrugged, saying he didn’t know.

“I said to him, ‘What’s the worst that could happen?’ ” said McGuire, an assistant baseball coach at the time. “He’d already played two sports and done well, so why stop now?”

The words were enough to push Hauck on the mound that week, where he needed just 10 pitches to secure a spot on varsity.

“I didn’t have to see him hit or play the outfield or anything,” Knights baseball Coach Wayne Feuerherd said. “Just pitching-wise, he had enough.”

By the seventh game of the 2010 season, Hauck had settled in, pitching a tie game into the seventh inning against a nationally ranked Severna Park squad that featured three future NCAA Division I players and escaped with a 2-1 win on a late Knights fielding error.

As a child, Hauck sometimes wondered what life would be like without a disability, but after leading the Knights to their first county soccer title and the baseball team to its best start since 2009, any change that Hauck sees now is positive.

“From the beginning, I could tell what type of athlete Gregg was and he’s never let his [birth] injury be a factor,” Feuerherd said. “It’s there, but once people find out, they are always amazed because you can’t really tell, and he’s still become one of the county’s best all-around athletes.”

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