Earlier this season, Catholic Middle School (Memphis) baseball coach Herman Jorgensen saw one of his players taking grounders at second base in a rather unorthodox fashion, fielding the ball with his left hand before tucking the glove under his right arm in order to make the throw.
“I asked him what he was doing; if he needed a left-handed glove,” the coach said. “I just figured he hadn’t been taught the basics. He said ‘Coach, I can’t use my arm.’ And I said, ‘why, are you hurt?’
“And he said, ‘No, I just can’t.'”
The player in question, seventh-grader Ty’Cerian Young, truly can’t use his left arm and has never been able too. He was born with Erb’s Palsy, a condition that is caused when one or more nerves that control and supply the muscles of the shoulder and upper extremities is damaged. It is often the result of a difficult berth, as Young’s was.
“He was stuck in the birth canal,” said his mother, Brecarga Young. “At first, both arms had damage but the right one came back.”
The left never has. But that’s not stopping the Ty’Cerian from doing anything he wants to do, including being a valuable member of his school’s baseball team.
“I use a rolling backpack at school, but that’s really all I have to do different,” he said. “I throw with my left hand and catch with my left hand. I just try to get the ball out and across as fast as I can.
“I’m always trying to learn new ways to do things better.”
Hitting presents its own challenge. The crook of his right arm serves as sort of a stabilizer for the bat as he guides his swing crisply across the plate. Jorgensen said his player had several good rips this spring and actually led the team in quality at-bats. Meaning, he made the pitchers work.
“It makes me feel good, knowing that I can help the team or still make a great play,” Young said. “I just keep trying and practicing harder. I feel like I’m more than equal to my teammates. Because I keep trying.”
Young is too young to have seen to have seen Jim Abbott, who played 10 years in the majors and once threw a no-hitter despite being born without a right hand. And he’s definitely too young to know anything about Pete Gray, who played for the Memphis Chicks before spending the 1945 season in the big leagues with the St. Louis Browns.
Indeed, there aren’t a lot of role models for aspiring players in Young’s situation. But family support has filled in the gaps.
“He’s always been told he could do anything he wanted to do,” said the player’s grandmother, Bobbie Carver. “We didn’t let him think that he had any limits. Football (he plays linebacker and center), baseball, whatever he wants to do. We’ll be at the games steady hollerin.'”
His mother was skeptical at first.
“I didn’t want him to play anything,” Brecarga Young laughed. “I was scared he’d do more damage. I wanted him to play chess.
“But I’m his biggest supporter. He just has so much determination.”