OLD ORCHARD BEACH — The public-address announcer informs the crowd that the next batter for the Old Orchard Beach Surge is No. 17, Skip Flanagan, which is also the cue to begin playing the familiar guitar riff from George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone.”

The choice of walk-up music is an homage to Flanagan’s burly junior varsity high school coach, who used the song as his ring tone.

It’s also an inside joke of sorts.

Flanagan cannot hear the song as he strides toward the left-handed batter’s box at The Ballpark. In fact, he has never heard it.

Flanagan was born deaf.

“Apparently it’s a good song,” Flanagan, using sign language, said through his interpreter and mother, Sue Gagnon-Flanagan, in a moment of levity in the dugout before a recent game.

“I was thinking about (his former coach), so nobody expects me to pick that song. Last year I had ‘Wrecking Ball’ (by Miley Cyrus). I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me so I had fun with it.”

OLD ORCHARD BEACH, ME - JULY 22: Skip Flanagan signs to his mother after the Surge’s practice in Old Orchard Beach, ME on Wednesday, July 22, 2015.

Skip Flanagan signs to his mother after the Surge’s practice.

Flanagan, 22, is a rarity in professional baseball. Only three deaf players have had prolonged careers in the major leagues. But Flanagan, of Framingham, Massachusetts, is sanguine about his impairment and has never seen it as a reason to give up on his boyhood dream.

“Being deaf isn’t really a challenge. In a lot of ways it’s an advantage,” said Flanagan, a .274 hitter in 21 games for the Surge. “You feel like you don’t have to handle any junk or noise that can get in your head. I can have a good night’s sleep. It’s not really different. It’s just that you don’t use your spoken voice.”

Flanagan’s given name is Sean Patrick. Sean is his father, who played first base and pitched for the University of New England in Biddeford. Patrick was his brother, who died at 1 day old.

Skip inherited his family’s passion for baseball – his grandfather played and another ancestor managed a professional team in the early 1900s. He also inherited his inability to hear – both of his parents have first cousins who are deaf.

So Gagnon-Flanagan recognized some of the telltale signs when Flanagan was an infant and had him tested. At 17 months old, a doctor confirmed the diagnosis.

And nothing really changed.

Skip took up T-ball and showed an immediate aptitude. He tried other sports – soccer, hockey, basketball – but baseball became his love. He excelled in middle school and at Bishop Feehan High in Attleboro, Massachusetts, where he was the only deaf student.

THE PATH TO THE PROS

Skip Flanagan, who grew up in Framingham, Mass., wasn’t selected in the major league draft in June but that hasn’t stopped him. And really, nothing ever has. Through every baseball level, from T-ball through college, he’s proven that being deaf doesn't hold him back or prevent him from communicating with teammates and coaches.

Flanagan, who grew up in Framingham, Mass., wasn’t selected in the major league draft in June but that hasn’t stopped him. And really, nothing ever has. Through every baseball level, from T-ball through college, he’s proven that being deaf doesn’t hold him back or prevent him from communicating with teammates and coaches. Whitney Hayward/Staff Photographer

He faced his share of ignorance. His mother said it was common for people to ask whether her son could read. Other comments were more cutting. Flanagan shrugged them off.

“There are people who support you and respect you, and those who don’t. Everywhere you go, there’s going to be a doubter,” Flanagan said. “I don’t let it affect me. They can see where I am now.”

Flanagan was so good as a pitcher/first baseman/outfielder that colleges started looking at him. He settled on Rochester (N.Y.) Institute of Technology, which houses the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

He starred there for four years, becoming team captain. Along the way he gave up pitching to concentrate on hitting and played the past two summers for the Old Orchard Beach Raging Tide in the Futures Collegiate Baseball League. The location was fortuitous for Flanagan. His father’s close friends from UNE, Michael and Deborah Komich, live in South Portland. Flanagan has stayed with them the past three summers, and his parents frequently make the drive to see him play.

“We’re his only handicap,” joked his mother, who has long made a habit of wearing hot pink or bright orange shirts so Flanagan can easily spot her in the crowd.

Flanagan struggled a bit in his first season with the Raging Tide, playing sparingly, but was good enough when he returned the second year to become an All-Star. He was hopeful of being selected in the major league’s amateur draft in June.

“I was sitting at Friendly’s Restaurant with my mother and we saw the last pick of the draft and we said, ‘Oh, well, we’re playing pro ball, let’s go,’ ” Flanagan recalled. “It was right after I signed with this team, so I still got to the pro level, and I’m trying to do my job and do it well. (Not getting drafted) happens to a lot of people.”

NOT A DEAF PLAYER, JUST A PLAYER

Skip Flanagan communicates with an Old Orchard teammate, Richard Colla. Teammates needed about two days to learn to communicate with Flanagan.

Flanagan communicates with an Old Orchard teammate, Richard Colla. Teammates needed about two days to learn to communicate with Flanagan.

The Surge are in the independent North Country Baseball League, the bottom rung of pro ball. General Manager Alex Markakis knew of Flanagan from his days with the Raging Tide and invited him for a tryout. Flanagan made an immediate impression on Manager Scott Nathanson.

“He’s a very mechanically sound player,” Nathanson said. “There is not a person who has seen him play the game that doesn’t have a lot of respect for him. He’s not a deaf baseball player, he’s a baseball player and that’s the best compliment you could give him – he’s a good baseball player.”

His teammates also have been impressed.

Second baseman Chris Ray said it took about two days to learn how to communicate with a deaf teammate, something he’d never had to consider.

He has been the one to signal Flanagan, a first baseman, when coaches want him to move closer to the foul line or into the hole between second base, stepping into the infield grass to get Flanagan’s attention.

There was only one incident early on.

“There was a ground ball … and I just sat down waiting for it. All of a sudden here comes Skip cutting in front of me to get it. I’m thinking, ‘Why’s he over here?’ ” Ray said, breaking into laughter. “Once you understand that he’s very aware of his surroundings, if you throw a hand up in any fashion he can either see it or feel it out of the corner of his eyes.

“It really wasn’t as hard as I would have thought if you would have told me I was going to play with someone who’s deaf.”

Flanagan can hear some sounds – the crack of his bat when he makes solid contact with a pitch, the roar of a large crowd (though not boos, he joked), even the pop of his fastball when it entered the catcher’s mitt when he was pitching.

He also will speak when the occasion calls for it, shouting, “ball, ball, ball!” when he’s positioning to catch a popup.

“Some of the guys are going, ‘Oh, my God, Skip’s talking! Back off,’ ” Flanagan joked.

ROAD’S NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH

Flanagan was thrilled to discover that one of his new teammates, pitcher Brian Chandler, was proficient in sign language. Chandler was a big help with communication early on.

But he also provided Flanagan with his first lesson that pro baseball can be a harsh business. Flanagan came into the locker room looking to celebrate a victory one night to discover his friend had been cut.

“It was tough because I had a good game. We won. We walk in and, boom, he’s gone. Like ‘Wow!’ ” Flanagan said.

Flanagan grounded to first base on his first pro at-bat but got a hit later in his debut game. That made him feel better about belonging in the professional ranks.

In his second game, he collected three hits.

It hasn’t always been smooth. The team is in last place in the standings. Injuries have forced a great deal of lineup shuffling, moving Flanagan to left field at times, although he’s most comfortable at first.

Last Wednesday, in a victory over the Road City Explorers, Flanagan struck out twice and popped to third. But he also drew a crucial walk with two outs in the bottom of the sixth, just before the Surge scored the go-ahead run.

During the at-bat, his teammates could be heard offering the usual encouragement – “Lets go, Skip” and “Atta boy, Skip.” Down the first-base line, a fan started rhythmically pounding a drum.

Flanagan could hear none of this, of course, but it pointed out what he had been saying before the game.

“I’m just one of the guys on the team and on the field,” he said.

It was hard to tell who was wearing a bigger smile – Flanagan or his mother.