Baseball runs in Jackson Ryan’s family. As the grandson of pitching great Nolan Ryan, and the son of Houston Astros president Reid Ryan, people expect big things when they hear his name.
Those expectations would sink a lesser pitcher, but it’s clear Ryan loves the game. He’s not only succeeded on a mound, but done so despite a disability that doctors thought could keep him from walking.
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Ryan has cerebral palsy, a disorder that impacts the muscles. Jackson’s entire right side is affected. While that would make pitching next to impossible for most players, the high school pitcher has found a creative way to make it work according to Max Preps.
The 17-year-old lefty lacks fine motor skills in his right hand and wears a special velcro strip on that side that attaches to another piece on the inside of his glove. After Jackson releases the ball from his left hand, he pulls the velcro apart and immediately puts his left hand in the glove during the follow-through to protect himself. He essentially throws and catches with the same hand.
The motion is incredibly similar to that of Jim Abbott. Abbott was born without a right hand, but pitched 10 years in the majors. After releasing every pitch, Abbott would quickly transfer the glove from his right arm to his pitching hand in case he needed to make a play.
It’s no mistake the two have a similar motion. Ryan said he studied Abbott’s motion during a feature from Perfect Game Baseball.
Ryan also sheds some light on cerebral palsy, and explains why he doesn’t want people to feel bad for him in the video.
Ryan is currently a reliever on the Second Baptist Eagles in Houston. The team is managed by Astros great Lance Berkman. Former pitcher Andy Pettitte also works with the club. Through 5 2/3 innings, Ryan has a 4.94 ERA with nine strikeouts.
His determination has most impressed Berkman, according to Max Preps.
“The fact that he’s able to do as much as he is with his disability is incredible,” Berkman said. “More than that is his mindset and approach to life. He shows up and is ready to go every day. He’s got that determination and laser focus. You just see it all over him when he’s on the mound, this is what he’s all about. He’ll run through a brick wall before he’ll quit. This is what it means to face a difficult challenge head on and not making any excuses. Don’t look for an easy way out, work and overcome the obstacles that you’ll face in your life.”
Ryan, now a junior, hopes to continue playing baseball in college. While the majors remain far away, Ryan shouldn’t worry about living up to his grandfather’s legacy. He’s already writing this own.
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