He's just Anthony: Teen doesn't let having just one hand stop him
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on June 25, 2011 11:44 PM
Anthony McKinney throws a few fastballs to his father, Steve, in the family\'s back yard. The 13-year-old has learned to adapt to having only one hand.
Anthony McKinney digs into the batter's box and waits for the teenager on the mound to make his move.
The pitcher fires a fastball.
Anthony swings and misses.
"Come on now. You've got this," the boy's father, Steve, hollers from his perch along the fence just inside the first base line, before turning to the man standing next to him. "We've been working on his bat speed."
Anthony looks toward the dugout where his teammates are cheering him on and turns his focus back toward the mound.
The pitcher fires another fastball.
Anthony swings a second too late.
"He's swinging good," Steve says, clapping his hands. "He'll catch up to one."
But the third pitch nets the same result.
"That kid can throw. This is a good team. They've got some really good players," Steve says, as his son, wearing a smile, grabs his glove and hustles toward first to man his post. "We're more like the Bad News Bears."
Watching Anthony face off against the opposing team's ace, you would never know that the 13-year-old only has one hand -- that he was born with what his family calls "his nubby."
But when he fields a grounder, it's hard to miss the routine he has perfected since he started playing baseball at age 3.
His glove, worn on his right hand, takes in the ball before, in one smooth motion, he bends his left arm, pulls off and secures the glove and grabs the ball with his good hand.
Fielding, he says, is his strength.
And while some -- parents of his teammates, his coaches and bystanders -- find his ability to play so effectively "amazing," for Anthony, it's simply "the way."
"It's not hard," he said. "It's pretty normal, I guess."
Anthony's mother, Susan, can still remember the shocking ultrasound that revealed her first son would be born with only one hand.
"At first, I was devastated," she said. "I was worried for him -- when he got older."
And the doctors had no explanation.
"No rhyme or reason," Steve said. "They said, 'It just happens sometimes.'"
But other than that one defect, the boy was healthy.
And since his birth, he has acted, "just like any little kid," Susan said.
And he would reject, as an infant, the prosthetic hand his parents had him fitted with.
"When he crawled with it on, he just dragged the arm," Steve said. "So I said, 'Wow. Is this more about us or is it about him?' So we scrapped it.
"We were in this dilemma, you know? What do we do? So we just came to the decision that we should let him learn how to do everything without."
But that decision has never limited Anthony's ability to reach the same milestones as other children his age.
He learned to tie his shoes and ride a bike long before his older sister.
And he maintained a fearlessness, Steve said, that has been both humbling and inspiring for his parents.
Other things have also left the boy's mother and father awestruck.
Like the day his 7-year-old brother, Samuel, asked when he could get a "nubby" like Anthony.
"I think it speaks to seeing big brother doing things," Steve said. "It speaks to what Anthony is capable of doing. When you've got a kid with two hands asking when he can get his 'nubby,' it shows just how normal Anthony is."
Or on those game nights when No. 8 rips a long fly ball to the outfield or strikes out batters with his one good arm.
"We've had plenty of people say, 'I never knew," Susan said. "Watching him, they thought he had two hands."
His glove hanging on his left arm, Anthony puts his fingers along the seams of a baseball and stares at his father.
Steve is crouched down in the family's back yard -- playing catcher, like many dads do, for the 13-year-old that has, in many ways, put his own life into perspective.
"I think it's pretty cool that he's attached himself to baseball," Steve says. "I mean, baseball is a game of adversity. I mean, what's success in baseball? Thirty percent at the plate?"
Anthony fires a few fastballs before showing off his changeup.
He's ready, he says, to try out for the Rosewood High School baseball team.
The way he sees it, he is just another 13-year-old boy -- a shy young man with hopes and dreams and a certain fearlessness.
And he refuses to admit that he has overcome what others might see as a limitation or adversity.
Anthony has always been, quite simply, Anthony.
And to him, nothing else seems to matter.