Hamilton has overcome challenges and is ready to blossom
Professional baseball presents a constant course of inevitable challenges, but Nick Hamilton has overcome adversity since his toddler years.
Hamilton, 23, was selected by the Cleveland Indians in the 35th round of the 2012 amateur draft. The Kent State alumnus earned a degree in Business Management but now, all business resides on the ball field.
Hamilton entered the 2012 draft with wide eyes and open expectations. He knew a handful of teams were scouting him but his hopes remained with the hometown heroes.
“It was certainly a neat experience to be able to get that call,” he said. Hamilton learned he was drafted by the Indians while his Kent State team was preparing for the NCAA super regionals. “I found out in the middle of our practice,” he recalled. “It was really a great time and it came at a great time.”
After the draft and Kent State’s memorable NCAA championship run, Hamilton spent last season with the Arizona League Indians. He also spent his first spring training in Arizona, an experience unlike any other.
“It was crazy because we had like 180 guys in camp,” Hamilton said. “It was a lot of fun and really competitive, which is exactly what I like. It was an environment that I really got a kick out of.”
Hamilton had experienced the spring training experience before, but never as a ballplayer. He attended camp as a kid to watch the iconic stars of the 90s big league club.
“I never went to the minor league camp, just because I wanted to watch Kenny Lofton and Jim Thome hit BP, not guys in A-ball, which now that’s me I guess,” he laughed. “It was certainly something that was an eye-opener.”
Now, Hamilton’s eyes have been opened to the professional ball experience. He started the season in extended spring training before joining the short-season Mahoning Valley Scrappers for seven games. Hamilton joined the low-A Lake County Captains in early July. As he focuses on his work at the plate, he knows he can always return home with relative ease.
Hamilton is an Avon Lake native and lives at home during the season. He values his time with friends and family, especially his father, a local celebrity. Nick is the son of Tom Hamilton, the Cleveland Indians’ official play-by-play announcer. Though he’s close to home, Nick understands his father’s presence is limited with the lengthy Indians’ season in progress.
“He’s got a lot on his plate and we’re always talking on the phone everyday so I’m able to stay in touch,” Hamilton said. “I understand he’s not going to be able to see a lot, but it’s great when he does get to see some things.”
Fortunately, Tom Hamilton did have the opportunity to take in a Captains game as he was recently spotted in the stands at Classic Park during the MLB All-Star break.
Even if Tom can’t call all of Nick’s games, he’s supported his son through challenges since Nick’s diaper days. Nick began to suffer hearing loss around the age of three and remains partially deaf. He has been through multiple surgeries and uses hearing aids for assistance, but he was not impeded by his impairment. Once he regained his speech, he simply sought to live a normal life.
“Once I learned how to speak again, that was the biggest part,” Hamilton said. “Once I got beyond that, it’s not something I really focused on.”
Hamilton learned to focus on baseball and found ways to gain advantages from his hearing problem. He said his keen eyesight compensates his hearing deficiency, which pays respect to the old baseball adage, “See the ball, hit the ball.” According to Hamilton, when one sense falters, the others improve.
“We’ll always focus on this little ball that’s traveling at a high rate of speed so it’s certainly important to have good eyes and be able to see at a distance,” he noted. “I’d rather have a hearing issue than a sight issue.”
Hearing isn’t a disruptive issue for Hamilton on or off the field and his parents have done everything in their power to ensure that.
“My parents were just phenomenal to be able to get me speaking again when I was young and that’s allowed me to kind of fulfill what I wanted in life, and that’s to be a normal, everyday person, talking, and just being around other people,” Hamilton said.
Now, Hamilton’s senses are focused on curveballs leaving the hands of opposing pitchers. He said he’s not working on one element of the game in particular, though the organization converted him from an infielder to an outfielder. He isn’t sure what plans the Indians have in store for him, but he’s willing to play wherever they choose. As a result, he’s embracing every new challenge that presents itself.
“It’s always something new every day,” he said. “That’s what I like about baseball. Each day you come to the park, there’s a new challenge.”
Hamilton’s biggest goal at the moment is to compete. He wants to work his way into the line-up to help the Captains in their playoff push, which would be their second playoff appearance in just as many years. Hamilton knows his health is also an imperative factor to his success, so he’s also made it a point to stay in shape.
“I just want to get out there and help us win and the only way I can do that is stay healthy,” he noted. “We’re in the hunt for the second half title and that’s what we want. I just want to do whatever I can to help us get there.”
Of course, Hamilton has seen the postseason before. Last year, the Kent State Golden Flashes advanced to the NCAA College World Series as the first Mid-American Conference team to reach the College World Series since 1976. The team crafted a memorable victory over the top-seeded Florida Gators in the first round before falling to the defending champion South Carolina Gamecocks in round two.
The experience was unlike anything Hamilton had seen. More importantly, it taught him lessons he had never learned.
“I think I learned a lot from that about slowing myself down, about just really focusing on the game because there’s always going to be other things that are going to try and grab your focus, whether it be fans or media or anything else,” he explained. “I think that was a great preparation last year just for me personally. I really learned how to focus on the game.”
The Captains are in the final month of their season, but Nick Hamilton is just starting his career. The opportunities are limitless, so all he needs are chances to take advantage of them. He’s already learned to overcome challenges, so the future is merely a sea of uncharted waters he must navigate.
Stephanie is a crime and general assignment reporter for The Morning Journal in Lorain, Ohio. She’s an alumna of Cleveland State University with a degree in Journalism and Promotional Communication. You can follow her on Twitter @7thInningSteph.