FRAMINGHAM — Sean “Skip” Flanagan was nervous.
“It was pretty tough, standing up at that moment,” he recalled.
In the summer of 2010, before his senior year at Bishop Feehan High in Attleboro, one of his classmates, Larsan Korvili, drowned while on a retreat at Craigville Beach on Cape Cod.
Flanagan delivered a eulogy.
“I was asked by a member of his family,” he said. “It is something I had to do.”
‘It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes life throws you fastballs, sometimes curves.’
‘Skip’s not just determined to be the best deaf player, he wants to be the best player we’ve ever had.’
The eulogy came silently, from his heart: Flanagan was born profoundly deaf. His words were voiced by an interpreter. He and Korvili were athletes at the school, Korvili a football and track standout, Flanagan a baseball player.
“We met in the weight room, and we just clicked,” said Flanagan, with his mother, Sue, handling the interpreting.
Life hasn’t paved an easy road for Sue and her husband, Sean. They lost a son, Patrick, two days after birth. So they named their second son Sean Patrick: “Sean for his father, Patrick for his brother in heaven,” said his mother.
The Flanagans live in Framingham, where Sean attended the Learning Center for the Deaf.
“It was really the foundation of everything I am,” said Flanagan, now 19. “I benefited tremendously from it.”
He started playing baseball in a T-ball league in Marlborough.
“It was a great feeling being part of a team,” he said. “It was my seed for the love of the game.”
One of his idols is William “Dummy” Hoy, who in 1882 became the first deaf player to make it to baseball’s big leagues.
“He should be in the Hall of Fame,” said Flanagan.
Hoy is credited by some for the development of signals for safe and out calls on the diamond.
Flanagan liked hitting and playing the field, but when he was 12, his youth league coach “decided to make my life miserable and put me on the mound,” he said. To his surprise, he took to pitching right away.
“I was a late bloomer,” said the 6-foot, 185-pound lefthander.
Flanagan plays college ball now, having just completed his freshman year at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He played in all 40 games this spring, starting 33 as a first baseman and pitcher, compiling a 2-5 mark on the mound while hitting .247.
His best game came against Union, when he struck out 10 batters. “That made me feel I could play at this level,” he said.
He learned quickly the difference between facing high school and college batters.
“When I throw it down the middle, they hit it,” he said. “I gave up a double once and said to the catcher that I’d thrown a good pitch. He said, ‘No you didn’t.’ ”
His coaches and teammates are versed in communicating with Flanagan through signing.
There have been some amusing moments along the way. Playing in a 2010 showcase tournament in Arizona, Flanagan went up to bat and informed the umpire that he was deaf.
“The ump said, ‘You’re deaf and I’m blind,’ ” he said.
Rob Grow has coached a couple of deaf players in his 20 years in the dugout at RIT.
“Skip’s not just determined to be the best deaf player, he wants to be the best player we’ve ever had.”
Grow said he doesn’t think Flanagan is overreaching.
“I can’t wait to see the impact he’ll have here,” he said.
Picking a college was difficult. He considered Holy Cross, and he visited Gallaudet, the renowned school for the deaf in Washington, D.C.
RIT, with about 17,000 students, does have a strong program for its 1,500 deaf students. He is one of a handful of hearing-impaired student-athletes at the college.
Gallaudet was especially hard to turn down because the baseball coach is former Major League Baseball outfielder Curtis Pride.
Pride, who is deaf, played in 461 games in the big leagues, including brief stints with the Red Sox and Yankees. The final decision “broke my heart because I love Curtis,” said Flanagan, who achieved a 3.47 grade point average in his first college year.
Even before Flanagan put on an RIT uniform, it was clear that he was an impressive young man.
“He had great charm, personality and charisma,” said Grow. “He always had a smile.”
John Stefanik was an assistant coach for Attleboro’s American Legion Post 312 squad the three seasons Flanagan was on the team.
“He was an on-base machine the last two years,” said Stefanik. “Average-wise, he was one of our top hitters.”
Communication between the coaches and Flanagan was never a problem.
“He’d read the coach’s lips, and we tried to read his,” said Stefanik. “We used hand motions too.”
Stefanik is one of the owners of Upper Deck Baseball Academy in Cumberland, R.I., which Flanagan attended as a high school freshman.
“He had that nice lefty swing,” said Stefanik. “He’d be out there forever hitting hundreds of balls.”
Flanagan spent a lot of time on the road in his high school years, commuting from Framingham to Bishop Feehan. He picked the school for sentimental reasons: his parents went there.
At Feehan, “I was the only deaf kid,” said Flanagan. He had an interpreter in class, and has a full-time one in college. He has fit right in with campus life.
“I’ve made some great friends, deaf and hearing,” he said.
He has never gone down the “why me?’’ road.
“I never thought about being deaf,” he said. “It’s not the end of the world. Sometimes life throws you fastballs, sometimes curves. You have to take it in stride.”
If the doubters wondered whether he could be a success in baseball, he would show them what he was all about. It was quite simple, really.
“Show up, work hard, earn their respect,” he said. “I feel I’ve done a lot in a short time. My faith is a big part of who I am. The sky should be the limit, no matter who you are.”
“He’s very confident with who he is,” said his mother. “He has a T-shirt that says ‘Glass half full.’ I think he’s inspirational in ways he doesn’t know.”
His baseball life is basically endless. This summer, suiting up for the Easton Huskies, Flanagan hit .320 while leading the Cranberry League in walks and finishing second in runs scored. On Aug. 13, he will play in the 19th annual Old Time Baseball Game at St. Peter’s Field in Cambridge, which benefits the American Red Cross.
And he’s even employed at a ballpark.
“My parents told me I needed a job, so I went out and got one,” he said. He’s making french fries at McCoy Stadium, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox. He is in his third season there.
Flanagan’s appreciation for his parents is boundless.
“They fought for me to get into everything, to improve myself and reach my dreams,” he said. “My dad always told me ‘do good things and good things happen.’ He’s a very social person. He’s been my link to the outside world.”
And his mother added, “When he was a baby he always woke up with a smile, and he still does. People say ‘Is he always that happy?’ ”