Originally written on Buzz On Broad  |  Last updated 11/17/14

By Kirsten Swanson

Imagine never hearing the beginning notes of Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir when Chase Utley makes his way to the plate or never hearing Harry Kalas call a homerun. Imagine never being able to stand up and sing “Take me out to the Ballgame” during the seventh inning stretch.

While these are things that most of us don’t think twice about, they are things that someone living with a hearing impairment misses out on every day. Phillies minor league outfielder, Tyson Gillies, is one of those people.

Growing up “different”

Gillies was four years old, sitting in pre-school, when all of his classmates started to get up and form a line near the door. He had no idea why he was the only one who was still sitting. All he could hear were a few muffles and scratching coming from the ceiling. What he didn’t know was that the noise was actually coming from the loud speakers. He became so upset and frustrated that he started to cry. He didn’t understand why everybody knew what was going on except him.

This was the first time Gillies realized he wasn’t like everybody else, that he had a disability. As if growing up isn’t hard enough, Gillies grew up wearing hearing aids--and still does, something that made him an easy target for bullies

“Being young and growing up, kids were very cruel and with everyone always making sure to let me know that I was different,” he said, via e-mail. “You start to believe them. It was something you just have to grow out of and go through life dealing with.”

Part of the reason people judge and can be so cruel is because they just don’t understand what it’s like living with a hearing impairment; it’s the fear of the unknown. They don’t understand how difficult and frustrating it can be for someone with this disability.

“Words can only tell so much. It makes you feel like a nuisance because you’re always asking others to repeat themselves and never quite know what is going on sometimes or what everyone is talking about,” Gillies says with laugh. “It is a very embarrassing feeling and at times it can be difficult to even have conversations with people if they don’t understand. A lot of people think that you’re being rude and ignoring them.”

Gillies learned early on that if he wanted others to accept him for the way he is, he had to learn to accept himself first. Once he learned to accept his hearing loss, he was able to embrace it. Fast forward to today and Gillies is flooding his 2,525 Twitter followers’ timelines with deaf jokes and embarrassing stories from his past like this tweet from August 29th:

“Years ago coach yelled at me for miss hearing go go with no no, wasn't going, told him he might as well tell a blind man the ball is over there ha!”

Gillies learned early on that by making light of his disability, it made people stop feeling sorry for him. Making people laugh is something he prides himself in, in fact, if he wasn’t playing baseball, he would be an actor, having already starred in a few commercials.

Baseball life

Growing up in Vancouver, British Columbia, like most Canadians, Gillies’ main sport was hockey. It wasn’t until he was about 11 years old that he started playing the game he loves today, which is considered late for some. Then came the time when he had to make a decision: continue playing hockey or take advantage of his baseball opportunities. Just short of 15 years old, Gillies made the decision to move four hours away from home to go play baseball.

“At that time I felt like I wasn’t strong enough to go off and play College of Juniors [in hockey]. Seeing that there was a better opportunity for a college scholarship in the states [with baseball], I took it.”

Gillies was the Seattle Mariners’ 25th round selection in the 2006 MLB Draft. He was in the Mariners’ organization for three years until he found himself a part of what was perhaps the biggest trade in Phillies history.

On December 16, 2009, Gillies, along with Phillippe Aumont and J.C. Ramirez, was traded by the Mariners to the Phillies as part of the series of trades that sent fan favorite Cliff Lee out of Philadelphia and brought Roy Halladay to the City of Brotherly Love.

Yes. Gillies was part of that trade.

“It came as a shock, but I was so excited to even be mentioned alongside two of the greats,” he said. ”I honestly didn’t feel any added pressure. I have always played this game as hard as I possibly can, and knew being with a new organization nothing would have changed that.”

Besides from the Phillies being an organization that anything but a parade down Broad Street is seen as a failure, Gillies hasn’t seen a change in his game since coming over from the Mariners. That is mainly because he has been sidelined for much of the past two seasons with a leg injury, something that Gillies finds very difficult.

”Watching your team go out there and not being able to contribute makes me feel horrible. I have tried to stay as positive as possible and hopefully take this as a lesson on how to prepare my body better in the future.”

Many would think that being hearing impaired would make playing baseball even that more difficult. For Gillies however, it has been quite the opposite.

“Having trouble hearing only makes you more alert of your surroundings. I always have to know what is going on more than the next guy. Depending on my eye site has been a huge tool and has helped me be successful so far in my career.”

Gillies has come a long way from that dreadful day in pre-school when his life was turned upside down. When asked what he thought his biggest asset is he didn’t say his extra sense of awareness or his speed, but his passion for the game.

Today you can find Gillies healthy and back on the baseball field playing in the Arizona Fall League for the Scottsdale Scorpions.

Kirsten Swanson is a contributor for BuzzOnBroad.com. She can be found on Twitter @kswan5

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