Sports are a great way for kids to remain active and learn how to work with others as a team. But for one reason or another, not everyone is given a chance to play on the same field.
Jackson Ryan, 18, loves baseball. But many assumed his desire to participate would have to take a backseat because of circumstances beyond his control.
Ryan was born with cerebral palsy, which inhibits movement on one side of his body.
Ryan is a descendant of baseball royalty, as his grandfather, Nolan Ryan, is a Hall of Fame baseball pitcher who holds numerous all-time records. Naturally, he grew up loving baseball.
But because his muscle control was inhibited, the chances of him making it out onto the field were slim. Initially, his father worried about his son’s ability to perform everyday tasks– baseball was an afterthought.
But after his father met with a man named Jack Todd, whose son also plays baseball with cerebral palsy, he was encouraged.
“When I heard what his son was doing, it gave me a lot of encouragement for Jackson to do whatever he wants to do,” Ryan’s father said to CHRON.
Ryan, 18, is now a senior at Second Baptist School in Houston, Texas. The teenager’s hard work and determination have made him an inspiration to his teammates, as well as his coaches.
“I’ve been around it forever, so I’ve always wanted to play baseball,” Ryan said to ABC 7 NY.
Ryan’s coaches, Lance Berkman and Any Pettitte, wish other players had Ryan’s determination.
He’s had to make a few adjustments and modifications to be able to keep up with others, though. Notably, he uses a custom-made velcro glove which he removes to catch and throw with the same hand.
But the more challenges Ryan is faced with, the more willing he is to rise to the occasion. His coaches, both former major league all-stars, marvel at his work ethic.
“He’s got one arm out there, basically, and he’s switching his arm back and forth,” Pettitte said to ABC 7 New York. “It’s just an inspiration.”
It doesn’t come as a surprise to those who have spent time with him. Ryan doesn’t want anyone feeling sorry for him, and he doesn’t let cerebral palsy get in his way on the field.
“No. I just gotta go through it and do what I need to do in order to pitch well,” Ryan said to Perfect Game Baseball. “I do everything normally, so no.”
Ryan has plans to keep once he’s out of high school.
Ryan plans to continue pitching while he is in college. Even after his playing days are over, he hopes to be involved with the sport in some capacity for the rest of his life.
Regardless of what the next chapter holds for him, he has become an inspiration to those with disabilities and lofty goals.
“Just be yourself and go out and play,” Ryan said. “It doesn’t matter how it looks or if it looks funny, just be yourself and you can do anything.”