WOODSTOCK — There are plenty of things that make Danton Hyman stand out on and off the field.
The Woodstock River Bandit’s energy and enthusiasm is noticeable to his teammates and coaches and anyone who meets him. His ability to run down balls and make plays in centerfield are followed by oohs and aahs from the crowd.
Something else makes Hyman stand out, though it’s only noticeable up close to him. Hyman, who was born deaf, wears hearing aids that allow him to hear. Hyman said the hearing aids, which he said he’s worn since he was 2 years old, are a very big part of who he is.
“I feel like I would be different without them,” Hyman said. “They shape who I am. I love them. I wouldn’t trade them for the world and I’ve talked to people who have hearing aids and said they don’t feel comfortable with them. And you got to tell them, ‘hey, do you want to hear?’ That’s the greatest thing about it.”
Hyman said he’s had the hearing aids for so long they feel very natural to him. They are just a part of him. He said his parents searched and searched to find ones that worked perfectly for him.
On the baseball field Hyman said the only time he has trouble hearing is when he’s running or if it’s windy and then he has to really use his eyes to help him out.
“When I’m at second base or running around on the bases and the wind’s blowing, it’s just really tough,” Hyman said. “When (the coach) is trying to send me home that’s when I have to use my eyes. There’s just certain parts of the game that I have to overcome because of my hearing.”
He said he can’t really hear the ball come off the bat when he’s in the outfield so he has to focus harder to see the ball.
“I think that helps me as a player, because I really have to pay attention with my eyes,” Hyman said.
Hyman, who can also read lips to help him if needed, said he has never let the hearing aids affect his desire to play sports and he said he encourages others to do the same every chance he can.
He said he has played baseball since he was 3, and it’s always run in his family. He also played basketball from the time he was 9 until he graduated from high school.
“My mom’s always told me that your hearing aids is who you are,” Hyman said. “You’ll always have them and you need to use that to the best of your advantage. And I took that to heart. Anybody that has any kind of disability — I understand that. I got to be grateful for what I have. And anybody that has a disability they’re grateful for other things too, and that’s the special part about it.
“And that’s why everybody should be treated as equal, because I can’t tell you how many people do have hearing aids and that shouldn’t change anybody. You should be able to play sports.”
Hyman has not only been playing sports, but excelling at a high level as well.
Hyman plays baseball at Division II Newberry College, which is located close to his hometown of Prosperity, South Carolina.
The rising junior outfielder hit .349 (67-for-192) for the Wolves last season with six doubles, 25 RBIs and 12 stolen bases.
He said he really wants to work on being a better leader and learning how to do that is one of his main goals this summer playing for Woodstock.
Woodstock head coach Will Thompson said Hyman’s energy and enthusiasm are infectious to the rest of the team.
“He’s just a huge energy guy for us,” Thompson said. “He’s a guy that shows up to the field every day that wants to play, wants to compete, wants to get better. And it shows in the way he plays. He’s always the first one on the field, the first one at the field. He hustles out every ground ball.”
Last year Hyman played for the River Bandits, and finished second in the league in batting average.
He said he had a chance to go to other places, but he really wanted to come back to Woodstock so he did that instead.
“I love Woodstock,” Hyman said. “I love the people, the community. They treat you really well. They make you fit in. They really love the baseball, and it’s a lot of fun. It makes it a lot of fun. It makes it easier to play because you feel welcomed in this town.”
Hyman is batting .325 (27-for-83) with four doubles and a team-best 14 RBIs. He’s also drawn 12 walks and leads the team with 12 stolen bases.
He said that his stolen bases are a product of playing at Newberry College, where they put a lot of focus on trying to steal bases.
He said he enjoys the challenge of trying to steal a base.
“Nothing pumps me up more than stealing a bag,” Hyman said with a smile. “It’s a game, it’s a mind game. That’s what I had to learn. Freshman year I was real timid about stealing because I didn’t want to get picked off, but if you’re going to steal bases you’re going to get picked off some.”
Hyman’s speed around the bases and in the outfield is one of his biggest strengths on the field.
Thompson said that several times this season Hyman has made some amazing catches in center field.
“The other day we were playing in Harrisonburg and he made a catch in deep center field that I don’t think any college centerfielder should have gotten to,” Thompson said. “And after that I had, I think, four or five people come up to me and just compliment him and tell me to tell him that was a Major League play. If it’s hit out there you know it’s going to be caught.”
The River Bandits, who won only 11 games last season, are 9-13 this season and are six games out of first place in the North Division.
Hyman said he’s really enjoying playing on this year’s team.
“It’s been a whole lot more fun for me this year, because of the kind of team that we have,” Hyman said. “When you got great guys to play around you it makes your job so much easier.”
Hyman said he wants to keep playing baseball as long as he can, but he feels very appreciative of being able to play every day and doesn’t want to take anything for granted.
One thing he said he’ll continue to do every chance he gets is to help others who have hearing aids. He said he always tries to be a role model for others.
“I can’t tell you how many kids I’ve met (with hearing aids) especially in college — it’s huge,” Hyman said. “I had a kid who came up, I think he was from Blacksburg, and he had hearing aids and he came out and took (batting practice) with me and to me that’s special. That’s what I enjoy doing. I feel like that’s what God wanted me to do. He don’t want you to sit around and complain, ‘hey, I wear glasses. Man, it stinks.’ He wants you to go out and do something and that’s the way I’ve taken it.
“I do hope that people who do have hearing aids take it as hey, I can change somebody else’s life.”