* OF Tyson Gillies writes about his journey from the Langley Blaze, playing with the Canadian Junior National Team, the draft process and playing in both the Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies farm systems, as well as his involvement in the the Walk4Hearing campaign. ….
By Tyson Gillies
On October 31, 1988, I was born into what I thought was a quiet world.
In life, it’s crazy how you can adapt to what you’ve been given. At a young age, my survival instincts came into play because I couldn’t hear. I had somehow taught myself to read lips and communicate. I also managed to fool everyone around me, including myself, [into believing] that I was no different from the rest.
After three tests at the age of four-and-a-half, the doctors finally closed the blinds on me in the hearing booth and asked me a series of questions. With no lips in sight, I began playing with the toys because I was unaware of anyone speaking to me. Once they reopened the blinds because I was nonresponsive, they then realized what the problem was. At that moment I was introduced to a whole new world when doctors discovered that I was deaf. Not knowing any different, I was unable to realize how my life would change.
As a young child it was extremely difficult to accept the fact that I was different. I battled wearing my hearing aids for years and found myself coming home without them. As a family we were all affected by my disability. With my unusual behavior the first few years of my life, my parents doubted themselves and their parenting. It is never just one person who is affected by this.
Feeling like an outsider about my loss and trying to fit in at school seemed like an impossible feat. I was insecure, angry, and kids were cruel. Growing up in a town with nobody like me, I felt alone. I had my parents and my sister, but nobody to relate to who understood what I was going through. It took me a while to realize this was how it would be, and I had to find a way to live with it.
I decided to take my anger and frustrations to sports. I felt like it was the one place I could get people to look at me a different way.
I wanted to be like everyone else. Growing up in Canada, this meant playing hockey. I knew that the looks and bullying weren’t going to change overnight, but for 60 minutes on the ice, my disability became a blur. I loved it, and for the first time in my life I felt like I was equal. I played hockey at the highest level for years before baseball opportunities fell into my lap.
I left home at 15 to play baseball for one of the best teams in Canada. I saw it as an opportunity for a college scholarship in the States. I never dreamt I would be playing professionally when the Seattle Mariners drafted me [in the 25th round] in my last year of high school [at R.E. Mountain Secondary School in Langley, BC].
Playing professionally for seven years now [hitting .284/.364/.411 with 29 home runs, 37 triples, 66 doubles, 316 runs scored, 143 runs driven in and 111 stolen bases over 500 games between the Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies organizations], managing with my disability has still been very difficult. It is like having to compete at a high level with one important tool barely present.
In life there are many things you cannot control, and there will be many people trying to understand what they do not know. It’s been 26 years and I am still trying to make sense of the hand I was dealt. I decided to get involved in the Walk4Hearing campaign.
I wanted to help spread awareness of the challenges and possibilities faced by those of us who are deaf. I am hoping people with this disability will learn that they have just as much opportunity as the next person. Everyone has things in life that they have to come to terms with.
It hasn’t been easy, but I’m here. I’ve had a really great life so far and can’t wait to see or hear what lies ahead.