By Aaron Matas and Morgan Dzakowic
KUSA – It all started with a game of catch.
Jaide Bucher was 5-years-old when she was inspired to pick up a softball for the first time. Little did Jaide know, this moment would lead her to become a source of inspiration for other people around her.
“We’re an athletic family. My husband and I have played sports with the kids since they were born. Jaide played catch with her cousin Sophie, and Sophie was a catcher,” Jaide’s mother, Denise Bucher said. About three years after Jaide started experimenting with softball, she began catching – just like Sophie.
Jaide is a freshman at Northglenn High School. But age doesn’t mean a thing. She’s the starting catcher for the varsity team. And even though Jaide said she didn’t plan on this happening, she has been practicing for this moment her entire life.
Jaide isn’t your everyday catcher, though. She’s something more than that; something special. Not only is she a freshman playing varsity softball, but she also has the power to make people stop and watch her play. She inspires people.
“Our softball team recently competed in a tournament where we got to watch a catcher from Northglenn High School who has one arm. She was very impressive. It was like Jim Abbott, except she was playing a much more difficult position to play for someone with one arm,” Rifle High School Athletic Director Troy Phillips said in an email.
Jaide was born without part of her right arm, from the elbow down. “It’s called amniotic band syndrome,” Jaide said. “It’s when something gets wrapped around the arm and cuts off circulation.” So part of Jaide’s arm was amputated in utero. She has played softball with one hand her entire life.
Northglenn softball coach Stacey Sterne said, “Jaide tried out just like everybody else, and we score them. She ended up in the top twelve players in tryouts, and we had about thirty girls total tryout.”
“That’s one of the biggest accomplishments that I’ve had,” Jaide said.
Jaide also plays competitive softball for the Colorado Venom 14U team. The team has one tournament at the end of October, and starts practice until the regular season tournaments begin in the spring. “She’s just a regular kid who wants to play softball,” Ms. Bucher said.
But some can argue that Jaide isn’t just a regular kid.
“The one thing she really impacts on the team is just coming out, and she knows she has just one arm, but she’s powerful in having that sense of confidence,” Sterne said. And her confidence is contagious to teammates – contagious to anyone, really.
“Well, they inspire me anytime I play. I play for them,” Jaide said. Senior teammate Deja Salazar said, “I’m glad that she feels that way about us, because we feel the same way about her. We play for her.”
Sometimes you see teammates who don’t get along at all. Sometimes team chemistry just isn’t there. And sometimes jealousy and cattiness can be very real, especially in high school. But the thing with Northglenn softball, is anyone can tell this is a very unique and special team. Part of this comes from Jaide: what she gives to her team, and makes them learn about themselves. Another part comes from her coaches, teammates and parents, willing to love and accept her exactly as she is, and not treat her any differently.
When it comes to difficulties, Jaide said it’s not necessarily anything that she has to physically do. “It would be other people being so judgmental, and just because I’m different. It’s hard for me to be accepted right away,” Jaide said.
Deja said the team would be there for Jaide in a heartbeat to stick up for her if anyone ever said anything bad about her. “But usually people don’t say anything about her. They’re really inspired by when they find out she plays softball,” Deja said.
But at the end of the day, Jaide really is just a regular kid who wants to play softball.
When taking the field, Jaide runs out with the same confidence and determination as any other girl out there, no matter if she’s catching or batting. She plays well. She hits hard. She doesn’t let people run. She goes out and plays the game, with her entire heart, just like everyone else. She loves to read, she puts school first, and she has a great group of friends and family.
What does set Jaide apart though, and always will, is that people walk up to her after the game is over, win or lose, and tell her, “You inspire me.”