Photos courtesy of Nick Hamilton.
The day he could hold a bat in his hand, was the day Nick Hamilton fell in love with baseball. But at the age of three, Nick started to lose his ability to hear. Now 22, he is getting ready to start his major league career. He was drafted by the Cleveland Indians, a moment he says was a dream come true.
“Being drafted was a goal I had since I was five, and to have that opportunity was a huge thrill,” he says.
The road to the major leagues was paved with hard work and the support of his parents.
“They always supported my baseball career, and without their help, my playing days would have been over years ago. They were the ones who taught me from day one that anything worth having, is worth working for,” he says.
His parents were the ones who first noticed he was losing his hearing. Nick’s mom noticed her son was not talking as much as he used to.
“I guess I used to be a little chatterbox, and I got really quiet all of the sudden,” he says.
After investigating for some time, doctors were able to figure out what was happening and were able to stop the hearing loss from getting worse. At the time, there was not a surgery to correct hearing loss. Luckily for Nick, his parents found a doctor who would perform, at the time, an experimental surgery. Nick was the 93rd person to have this done.
Focus on what you can do. Because others will be glad to take care of focusing on what you can’t do.
“I was awfully lucky to have my parents to pick up on it (hearing loss) and stop the hearing loss for me,” he says.
He had his last surgeries at the age of nine and had to begin what would turn into eight years of speech therapy to relearn how to speak, something which he considers the most challenging part of losing his hearing. He says certain syllables and sounds like “F” and “S” were difficult to tell apart.
“If you can’t hear it, it’s hard to speak it,” he says.
He was fitted for hearing aids at the age of three and has been using them ever since. He doesn’t know sign language, however, he uses lip reading to communicate if necessary. Another result of the hearing loss is his increased perceptiveness. Nick relies a lot on body language cues, something which he considers an advantage.
“If I wanted to be able to get a read on people or be able to understand what people wanted to communicate to me, body language was the best way to do it,” he says. “Really, you understand more anyway by being able to read body language.”
He says he feels very lucky and thankful for the hearing he does have.
“It doesn’t affect much of my daily life now,” he says. “I only remember I have hearing aids when I put them on in the morning and take them out at night.”
Nick says he does not consider himself disabled and does not want to be treated differently. “There’s no reason I shouldn’t be held to the same standards as everyone else.”
When it comes to baseball, the hearing loss has not affected the way he plays. It was the injury bug that actually caused the biggest issues during his career. In high school he had to have shoulder surgery, and while playing for Kent, he had a back injury that kept him out for a while.
What he thought was a sore back actually turned into a stress fracture.
“The lost time and development from those injuries and some other things really had me wondering if I would be the player I believe I could be,” he says.
The year he returned to baseball after his back injury had him feeling like he was wasting his time because he felt like he wasn’t as good as he used to be.
“I had to really dig deep, and once I finally realized that I still had the ability there, I was able to make up for the lack of game experience,” he says.
Nick’s love for the game was his main motivator throughout his college career and helped him overcome his injuries. “I really enjoy the competition and challenge baseball has to offer,” he says. “Being part of a winning team and the camaraderie you have with your teammates makes it all worthwhile too. “
Doug Sanders, former volunteer assistant coach for the Kent State baseball team, says baseball is Nick’s life.
“He is very committed, and wants to do well, and he has gone through some challenges,” Sanders says. “He is one of those kids who asks a lot of questions.”
Nick and his teammates made it to the 2012 College World Series in Omaha this past summer, an experience he says he was glad to share with his fellow flashes.
“So much hard work and sacrifice from our team paid off, and it was incredible how the Kent State community rallied our team,” he says. “I’m just really glad to experience this with my teammates.”
Sanders says Nick’s personality and his performance at the plate contributed to the success the team had in Omaha. Nick is a backup energy source and “the guys are always getting a kick out of him,” Sanders says.
Nick is a well-mannered and laid back person according to Sanders. “One word to describe Nick, I would say — genuine.”
Nick has been on the long road to success, and it is finally paying off. His advice to others out there is to simply have faith.
“Focus on what you can do,” Nick says. “Because others will be glad to take care of focusing on what you can’t do.”