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Sports


What do Tom Hamilton, Bob Feller and Kent State baseball share?
A kid named Nick, who Kent's coach says has his own extraordinary story
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
Kent State's regional champion baseball team includes DH/third baseman Nick Hamilton, the son of Indians broadcaster Tom Hamilton, who lost much of his hearing as a small child.
Courtesy of M.L. Schultze
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In The Region:

Kent State’s baseball team is riding the longest win streak in NCAA baseball to Oregon, where Kent will take on the Ducks in hopes of making the College World Series. And today, the Indians drafted one member of the team.

WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports he already has some extraordinary connections to the Cleveland ballclub.

SCHULTZE on Nick Hamilton and Kent baseball

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“Nick Hamilton, Junior, Avon Lake.”

That’s the DH/third baseman who led the Flashes through May with a .377 batting average and a big smile.

And for those who don’t know the rest of the story, his dad is: 

“Yeah, yeah. He’s Tom Hamilton. He’s the Indians broadcaster on the radio. That’s just something I’ve grown up with and especially back then in the ‘90s, it was so much fun. The Indians had all these great teams and, of course when you’re 5 years old you think it’s the biggest thing in the world. So it was certainly a big part of my life.” 

A love of the game 
Nick Hamilton grins as he talks of family trips to Spring Training in Winterhaven (with a load of makeup work waiting for him at school when he got back). And he talks of a kind of no-pressure genuine love of baseball he shares with his dad. 

“It’s always something I’ve just loved to do, and it’s really been something that’s just a great way for me to connect with others and it’s just kind of grown from there.”

Challenges as well 
It’s a talk about a kid-hood that barely hints at a child losing his hearing at age three, at experimental surgeries, and learning to read lips and to adjust to hearing aids. 

It’s left to Kent State Head Coach Scott Stricklin to be more explicit.

 “Sometimes when he gets on the bases on a really hot day, when he’s sweating he has to turn his hearing aids off because when it gets in the hearing aids it’s an issue. So sometimes he’ll be out there completely in silence.” 

And even in a game that relies on hand signals, “It’s a challenge when you’ve got guys trying to put on pick off plays and you can’t yell ‘back’ because he can’t hear you. Sometimes, we’ll tip signs on pitches, he can’t hear them.” 

Stricklin says the real challenges comes in the Field House, “because of auxiliary fans and if I’m yelling instructions from across the Field House, you can tell he’s really leaning in to try to hear.

“And it’s something he’s dealt with and something he’s thrived with and it’s just amazing. We think about the little things that bother us in our life and when you think about the things he’s overcome, and overcome with excellence, it’s just unbelievable. He’s just a great kid.”

Bob Feller, hearing aids and the picture
Occasionally, things that have caused struggle and pleasure in Nick Hamilton’s childhood are tied very tightly together.

WKSU's Amanda Rabinowitz interviewed his dad two years ago about Bob Feller, the Indians Hall of Fame pitcher whose health was failing. Tom Hamilton said Feller loved kids, wore hearing aids -- and showed ongoing concern for young Nick, including in one extraordinary way.

“Just out of the blue one day, when Nick was a little guy, he gave him a picture of Bob Feller and Ted Williams at the All-Star Game. Both had autographed that picture. Now, I’m not a memorabilia collector, nor have my kids been allowed to be because I just don’t feel it’s right in my position. But that’s one piece of memorabilia we have kept. It just was something that Bob didn’t have to do, but I think that tells you how much kids meant to Bob. He felt a connection there and wanted to show what it meant to him as well.” 

For his part, Nick Hamilton remembers Bob Feller well.
“He was a guy who really stood for what he believed in and never backed off of that and was true to himself and was good to everybody.”

But he doesn’t remember him wearing hearing aids.

 

The Kent State team heads to Oregon to play in the Super Regionals with at least one Major League draft pick confirmed and others expected. Saturday’s game is set to be broadcast on ESPN-U – with a first pitch sometime around 11 p.m. The winner of the double-elimination tournament will head to the College World Series.

 



Related WKSU Stories

Indians, HOF standout Bob Feller dies
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

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