Player Spotlight: Luke Terry – One-Armed Catcher
Luke Terry, One-Armed Catcher
If you had to play baseball with one arm, could you do it? Sure, we work on one-handed drills off the tee and soft toss for strength building, but if that was how you had to play the game, could you do it? I’d like to say I could, but I’m not convinced I’d do it very well; more specifically, not as well as Luke Terry.
Luke is a 15-year-old young man from Cornersville, TN, who, when not working on his family’s Angus beef cattle farm, enjoys doing the same things as many other boys his age, such as playing video games, playing baseball, hunting and fishing. However, Luke has to work a bit harder than others given that he has only one arm. When he was 19 months old, his right arm was amputated due to an E. coli bacteria infection which stemmed from an auto accident. Although he had to overcome a large hurdle, Luke was undeterred. Since the age of four, Luke has been playing baseball and was destined to be a catcher. In a recent interview, Luke explained to me that his grandfather was a catcher, as were his mom and dad, so it was a foregone conclusion he was going to be one as well.
Over the last several months, Luke’s talents as a baseball player have caught the attention of millions, having been involved with stories on ESPN, USA Today and several other major publications. The media exposure also caught the eye of some Major League Baseball clubs, which has turned Luke’s summer into an exciting few months. In early June, the Atlanta Braves, Luke’s favorite team, invited him to throw out the first pitch where he threw a fastball across the plate in front of thousands while wearing his own custom Braves jersey. To be on the field with some of his favorite players like Tyler Flowers and Dansby Swanson (former Vanderbilt shortstop, another favorite team of Luke’s) was a dream come true.
The fun didn’t stop there, as Luke was also invited by the Baltimore Orioles to visit Camden Yards as their special guest a couple weeks later. During Luke’s visit to Baltimore, he was given the VIP access to all club’s facilities and player – not to mention being met at the airport by The Oriole Bird himself, which set the tone for what was going to be an amazing experience.
Upon getting to Camden Yards, Luke was set up with Orioles’ gear from head to toe along with a new set of catcher’s gear which he used as Orioles Coach John Russell helped provide insight on techniques, mechanics and overall catching philosophy. When asked what it was like to have a guy like John Russell, former big league catcher and manger, work with him, Luke responded, “Pretty cool.” Pretty cool indeed. Throughout the day, Luke was on the field at Camden Yards, working on his throws to second and third on a picture perfect afternoon in Baltimore, MD. He got to hang out with the players, and Manager Buck Showalter even stopped by for a bit to check in on him. Needless to say, the staff at Baltimore did a wonderful job making Luke and his family feel right at home; however, they weren’t done yet. Later that evening, Luke was involved with the pregame festivities. We’ve all heard of first pitches. As a matter of fact, I’ve seen games where there have been several first pitches, but I’ve never witnessed a ‘first catch’. Luke didn’t get the opportunity to throw the first pitch at Baltimore. Instead he got to take his place in an all-too-familiar location, behind home plate, and catch the first pitch from hall of famer and Oriole great Jim Palmer. Palmer was calm and collected and delivered another strike, as he’s done a million times before, to the plate as the crowd cheered with appreciation for what this young man has accomplished. After zinging a fastball to Luke, the two met for a quick exchange and Jim said to Luke, “Never give up and keep being an inspiration.” It’s amazing how a few words can mean so much, especially when said by someone with the accomplishments of Jim Palmer.
Where there is a will there’s a way. Luke is a ballplayer, plain and simple. He just had to figure out a way to do with one arm what others do with two. What he came up with on defense, after spending hours upon hours in the backyard perfecting it, is nothing short of amazing. If I were to describe the exchange of the ball from his mitt to his hand in a couple words, I’d call it “the flip.” Upon catching the ball, Luke flips the ball in the air, throws his mitt off his hand, catches the flipped ball and throws it. With nobody on base or with runners on, this exchange happens very quickly and from all the video I’ve seen, his hand-eye coordination is amazing. The momentum he builds while driving to the base he’s throwing to when runners attempt to steal allows him that split second he needs to flip the ball, drop the glove, catch the ball and throw out a runner. I would encourage you to check him out online and see for yourself. Seeing Luke work with the Orioles on throwing out runners as well as watching him in live game action, the kid is rock solid and his POP times are right there with the best of them. As far as hitting goes, he bats from the left side and lets it fly. His strength must be amazing to not only control the bat, but to hit for power as well. There’s a term – “farm strong” – used to describe those who work on a farm that are exactly that: strong. Luke resembles that remark and I’m certain he’d agree that a large part of his strength can be attributed to working hard on the family farm. There is significant focus on his catching ability and justly so, but what he does in the batter’s box is equally impressive and his success is a testament to his hard work and positive attitude.
As a father of two traveling to various courts and fields almost every weekend, I’m hopeful my wife and I have done our jobs as parents so our kids appreciate the opportunities in their lives. I realize they’re kids and sometimes I’m not so sure they share the same level of appreciation I would want, but all we can do as parents is teach them life lessons and hope the message resonates. Appreciation for what we have been provided can sometimes be lacking in this day and age, but not for Luke Terry. Meeting Luke and learning about his story is enlightening, not only because he’s a darn good ballplayer, but he’s a good kid who works hard, plays hard, and doesn’t expect anyone to see him as anything other than a young man having fun. After communicating with him, I feel the following statement is fair and accurate: Luke Terry is a young man who embraces all life has to offer and faces life’s challenges head-on to become his best self. Luke’s best self is an inspiration to many and I honestly can’t wait to see him grow as a person and a ballplayer.
Having overcome tremendous adversity and being invited to big league ball parks so others can appreciate and applaud his accomplishments, what’s next for Luke Terry? Quite possibly his biggest challenge yet: high school. Of course I’m joking, but going into his freshmen year, as any young man can attest, a sense of anxiousness is in the air and until one can roam the halls. There will be a butterfly in the belly for at least a day or so, I’m sure, but Luke has shown he’s ready for the challenge and looking forward to playing high school baseball. I’m confident this young man will thrive for the next four years and we look forward to sharing updates on his successes. Keep working hard, Luke, we’re pulling for you.
Story by John Bennett – Baseball Youth | Twitter: Baseball Youth