Pictured is local teacher Deborah Ozanich, who was one of the voice actors featured in "The Silent Natural." (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
Pictured is local teacher Deborah Ozanich, who was one of the voice actors featured in "The Silent Natural." (HCP Photo/Caitlin Forsha)
A local teacher is among the actors and actresses lending their talents to an upcoming independent film on the life of former Cincinnati Reds player William “Dummy” Hoy, scheduled for release this spring.

Deborah Ozanich provided voiceover work for “The Silent Natural,” a movie about the life of William “Dummy” Hoy, the first deaf Major League Baseball player, who played for the Cincinnati Reds from 1894-97 and in 1902 during his 14-year professional career, according to the Cincinnati Reds website (reds.com). The website for “The Silent Natural” (dummyhoy.jigsy.com) says the movie is an “inspirational story [that] tells of the trials and tribulations of the first deaf Major League Baseball player along with his contributions to the game of baseball. Dummy Hoy showed us that no matter what your circumstance, if you have the will to overcome it, you can.”


Ozanich provided the dubbing for the film in August 2018, recording in two different studios in downtown Cincinnati.

“It was a lot of fun,” Ozanich said.

Ozanich – a native of North Carolina and current Highland County resident – graduated from Kent State University and moved to the Hillsboro area after college to work with the Hopewell Center. She currently works as an itinerant teacher for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in pre-K to 12th grade, commuting across a five-county area.

Ozanich was selected for the project after attending an open call audition in January 2018 at the Cincinnati Ensemble Theatre for individuals with disabilities. Ozanich, who said she’s known for being expressive, said she’s often been encouraged to take up acting.

“They did a video recording of all these people who showed up with different disabilities,” Ozanich said. “The goal was to collect a database of actors with different disabilities who can do representative films accurately.”

Ozanich – who is deaf herself, as well as an amputee – said she doesn’t consider herself disabled (“I call them challenges,” she said), but she was open-minded about the opportunity.

“I was like, ‘what the heck,’” she said. “People have told me I should try acting. I became a teacher, and when you’re a teacher, you have to be willing to act out the lessons you’re teaching.

“With my body expressions and everything, people say I’m very animated, and it can be intimidating. I went in and totally nailed it, and it was awesome. It was one of those experiences where my whole body shook, but nobody could tell.”

That audition led David Risotto, the director of “The Silent Natural,” to call Ozanich about six months later.

“I called him back, and he said he needed assistance dubbing over a deaf actress that had a deaf accent and wanted to make sure he had someone deaf to do that part,” Ozanich said. “His goal was to have as many deaf people involved as possible.”

Ozanich said that while Risotto is hearing, the researcher for the film, Steve Sandy, is also deaf.

“I have to commend the director for the tremendous amount of attention to detail and his patience in working with people who are deaf,” Ozanich said.

Ozanich provided the voiceover for the character Anna Maria Lowery, who eventually marries Dummy Hoy. The actress playing Lowery, Jody Stevenson, is also deaf.

“The actress is awesome,” Ozanich said. “She had about a hundred lines, so you can hear my voice throughout the movie.”

According to Ozanich, Hoy grew up in the Cincinnati area and was the valedictorian of his class at the Ohio School for the Deaf. His wife “became a well-known teacher for the deaf,” and together they had six children.

Ozanich said the film is “really inspiring” as Hoy overcame many odds to become a professional baseball player, including opposition from his father and being “too short” as well as being deaf and mute. Despite these challenges, Hoy found success in professional baseball, and Ozanich added that some believe Hoy “came up with some of the signals used today” in the sport.

“The film is just wonderful, the way it was put together,” Ozanich said. “The point of view of what he had to go through, the trials and tribulations, is really inspiring.”

In addition to bringing awareness to the deaf community, Ozanich said the filmmakers hope that “The Silent Natural” will encourage voters to enshrine Hoy in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Hoy is already a member of the Cincinnati Reds Hall of Fame.

As the movie focuses on all of Hoy’s accomplishments, Ozanich clarified that using the nickname “Dummy” Hoy throughout the film is not intended to be offensive.

“There is a misconception in the deaf community that his name was offensive,” Ozanich said. “Today, yes, it’s insulting, but in Dummy Hoy’s time, he wanted to be called that. It was OK, an honorable nickname for him. It wasn’t insulting.

“Deaf people now ask why I’m calling him that because for so long there was a stigma – ‘when you’re deaf, you’re deaf and dumb.’ That kind of came from all that, but it wasn’t offensive back then.”

The film is scheduled to be released in theaters this April in limited release. Ozanich encouraged anyone wishing to see the film to contact their local movie theaters and ask them to consider screening “The Silent Natural.”

Ozanich said she believes it will appeal to a lot of people, including local fans of the Cincinnati Reds. She added that the movie is made for both deaf and hearing movie viewers to understand, with open captions (which are like subtitles and can’t be turned off) as well as some actors using sign language during the movie.

“I know there are a lot of Cincinnati Reds fans around here, and they would completely love it,” Ozanich said. “It’s open caption, and a lot of people are fascinated by sign language. Because it’s captioned, everyone can access what’s being said, so they can watch the actors’ and actresses’ sign language and watch the open caption and not have to worry about not understanding sign language.”

After the film is screened in theaters, anyone wishing to purchase a copy of the film can preorder it at the film’s website for $19.99.

“The film is being released in April, so now’s the time to call your local theater if you want to support this movie,” Ozanich said. “So much in this movie appeals to so many people, especially parents of deaf children.”

A trailer for the film – in which you can hear Ozanich’s voice – is available on YouTube. For more information on the movie or to preorder a copy, visit DummyHoy.jigsy.com.