At first glance, it appears that San Marino High School senior Bryan Lee is adorned in a pair of ear discs, the trendy piercing technique that results in colorful instruments being affixed to one’s hearing apparatus. Even the royal blue color leads one to believe that the instruments are more decorative than utilitarian.
But they are not, and it soon becomes apparent that Bryan Lee needs his hearing aids to function in all areas of life and it has been that way since he was a small child.
“When I was a toddler, my parents had always thought I was disobedient since I never listened to them,” said Bryan. “They took me to the doctor and found out that I was hard of hearing, a disability in which my hair cells, which amplify sound, were non-functional. I didn’t know what was going on, but my parents were concerned about my future.”
At the age of four, Bryan was fitted with his first set of hearing aids.
“They opened my ears and mind to a new world,” he said. “I was finally able to clearly hear my mom’s voice, my father’s voice, my older brother’s voice, and everybody else’s. Soon after being able to hear better, I started my education at the Oralingua School for the hearing impaired. Every day, I spent hours learning how to hear, speak, and write. I also spent hours at home trying to communicate with my parents and brother. My family and I struggled, but they were patient, reading to me every morning and correcting my pronunciation.”
Though encouraged by the epiphany in his young life, Bryan faced challenges when venturing out into the world.
“As I enrolled in kindergarten, I was terrified,” Bryan recalls. “I noticed that I was different from everyone just because of my hearing aids, so I didn’t feel comfortable enough to approach other kids. From the sidelines, I would always watch others play, only joining them if they asked. As a result, my parents tried putting me in extra-curricular activities to teach me social skills.”
Bryan participated in tennis, tae kwon do, soccer, and art classes.
“But none of them seemed to help me,” Bryan said. “I still could not make friends. Finally, at eight years old, I tried baseball, which nurtured my confidence to do far more than what I thought I could.”
A diligent dedication to the sport was eventually accompanied by personal success, both on and away from the field of play.
“In second grade, my father signed me up at our local Little League,” he said. “For the first practices, I was so intimidated and shy that I did not interact with either my teammates or the coaches. As the years went by, I overcame my challenges of interacting with others and built friendships and connections with my coaches. I learned many important lessons that I applied to baseball and life outside the field. As I played through many seasons and was voted to all-star teams, I learned the importance of camaraderie, discipline, patience, humility and perseverance.”
And they have all paid off handsomely. Bryan is the undefeated Titans’ leadoff batter and starting centerfielder. Last season, Bryan batted .333 but declined to share his 2017 average.
“So far this year, I am hitting better than last year but I am not going to care about my statistics,” he said, resurrecting the thought of his twin spoken pillars of patience and humility and inspiring in each former or current athlete who reads this a solid reason for self-evaluation. “All I am doing is doing my best to execute my role on the field.”
Bryan’s quiet, composed approach to the game has certainly had a positive affect on his teammates.
“Bryan is the type of guy you can always count on to be in your corner,” said senior Ruben Garcia. “He’ll be there for you in the lows and he’ll celebrate with you when things are riding high. On and off the field, he’s an upstanding guy. Even after high school, these are things that will never be forgotten.”
“I’ve been playing baseball with Bryan for four years and what has always impressed me about him, aside from his skill set on the field, is the way he conducts himself as a teammate,” said fellow senior Trevor Davis. “I think the most impressive thing about his on-field demeanor is that he doesn’t let his own personal performance affect the way he treats others. Bryan is a great teammate even when it isn’t easy for him, and when the team is struggling, that’s when people need him most.”
Bryan’s dedication and perseverance have elevated him to the lofty status of “role model.”
“Bryan doesn’t complain, he doesn’t get down on himself, and he has shown time and time again that he is a great mentor for underclassmen who have learned from his example,” Davis added. “Bryan Lee is a good player, but more importantly, he is a good person. That will stick with him for the rest of his life. I don’t think there is any challenge that he won’t be able to overcome.”
The altruistic spirit reflected in Bryan’s attitude towards his batting average also impressed senior Tommy Hannan.
“What I find most admirable about Bryan is his willingness to act unselfishly, which is clearly shown by his commitment to being a team guy,” said Hannan. “He maintains a positive attitude regardless of the situation and always does whatever he can to benefit the team as a whole. I have no doubt that he will continue to approach everything he does with this same mindset moving forward.”
Bryan is hoping to continue his education at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of California, Irvine or Claremont College and he has had some conversations about playing baseball at the Division III level. When asked if his Titan blue-colored hearing aids signaled a total acceptance of his condition, Bryan acknowledged that it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind, but he had tired of the crystal-clear pair he had used for several years.
Regardless, he has advanced to a place he calls “total acceptance.”
“I used to be uncomfortable about my condition when I was younger, but I am now confident in myself,” he said. “After years of learning and hardships, I finally understand that being hearing impaired will not interfere with my abilities. Baseball changed my life. What I had feared would drive others from me, in fact drove me to be the best person and ballplayer that I could be. I have always worked hard to prove to everyone and myself that I will never allow anything to get in my way.”
Loud and clear, Bryan.
Loud and clear.