The Florida-born 16-year-old's name is Anthony Burruto. His is a sophomore in an Orlando high school. But is also not at all your typical or average student. Burruto is an athlete, and a very gifted one at that! The pitcher can throw an 80-mph fastball. That is a speed that is not far below some of today’s successful professionals in the sport. He was even was featured recently for his special ability on the cover of ESPN Magazine.
Anthony is indeed rare and incredibly unique. Here's why. The boy had his legs amputated as a baby because he was born without a shinbone in his left leg and without a fibula in his right one. But instead of sitting back, being depressed, withdrawn, or just honing his skills at video games, he turned to baseball. The modern world of prosthetics, not only allowed him to play, but eventually to exceed all expectations - even of those without his unique ‘disability’.
That is the good, encouraging, and inspiring news for most people with and without these kinds of special physical handicaps to contend with. The bad news is the decision that was made by the high school’s principal and the team’s coach to exclude the miraculously repaired and highly talented player from the varsity baseball team. The ‘stated’ excuse was just a single word - ‘bunts’. Yes, the coach was reportedly ‘worried’ that Burruto would be unable to field bunts if and when they occurred. Really?
I was listening to the major sports radio show in the New York City area recently on this story. Interestingly, as well as accurately, the host stated that most modern high school players are fairly clueless concerning the forgotten skill of bunting anyway. Few are taught this in this steroid age that focuses primarily on high batting averages and especially hitting for power. He even said at one point that a good number of college, and even some professionals, are not very effective at this dwindling aspect of the game.
Then, too, there is that little matter of opposing batters in general not being able to catch up to this kid's pitches at all – whether swinging away or trying to lay down an occasional sacrifice bunt. And when that occasion arises, cannot the third and first basemen 'cheat' by playing in a little closer to the plate and thereby compensate a little? It is no secret that not all great pitchers are also golden glove fielders. Many already rely heavily on surrounding infielders to help them out in this specific area of the game anyway. To me, something seems wrong!
Dennis Rasmussen, who pitched in the majors for 12 seasons, said simply, "This decision was wrong. He (the coach) crushed a young man with no apparent reason." The mom commented to the local newspaper, "He's not looking at him as an athlete. He was looking at him like he's a disabled person." I agree! Something here appears wrong!
My semi-educated guess is that this is primarily about some jealous parents of other pitchers who were probably seniors or juniors. My assumption is that they loudly, but secretly, voiced that they were not about to let their kids be bumped from the roster by the young phenom and maybe end their own kid’s dream of a scholarship or a shot at the pros - something that nearly every parent assumes their child is capable of today. And it seems that few realistically deal with the reality of the staggering odds of this ever coming about.
I played varsity baseball – what now seems like about a thousand years ago. In contrast, maybe we used caveman’s clubs for bats. They were certainly not the $300 advanced aluminum weapons that arm young hitters today. But as far as I know, you still today make the team by ‘trying out’ at this level. This is not T-ball for 8 year olds or town little league where all who sign up get into the games at some point - talented or not. In high school, where the players are nearly grown men, normally the best players play and the rest cheer from the bench, stands or find something else to do where they might be more suited or gifted.
To add to my personal suspicions of some shady dealings here, it was even suggested by some that Anthony spend a season on JV. That is like the high school version of the minor leagues. Interesting offer. But do they not bunt there, too? Something is wrong – very wrong! So maybe there was supposedly a concern for his physical safety? But do other kids not get hit by pitches, break bones in outfield collisions, get spiked, and tear up knees and ankles sliding - sometimes causing long-term and serious bodily damage at this advanced level? Something is wrong – very wrong! To his credit and honor, Anthony Burruto doesn't make any excuses. He simply stated to the papers, "I want to earn my position on the team. I want him to say I'm good enough to play." Well at least here is something finally right – very right!
And speaking of very right, very honest, and very up front, the God of the Bible has not, nor ever will, do anything to intentionally hurt or hide the truth from anyone for any reason. He has taken the time to clearly, openly, and truthfully spell out in Scripture all that man needs to get on His permanent ‘team’ through faith, and to please Him and follow His will.
But the difference between making God’s team and making a varsity or higher sports team is massive. It could not be more of a contrast since it has nothing to do with performance, ability, or favoritism. It has only to do with personal faith and trust in what Jesus Christ did for us because we have no ability whatsoever to save ourselves for the power and penalty of sin! The Bible abounds in proof texts to this effect, like those found in verses like Romans 3:23, 6:23, and 10:13. But nowhere is this great truth better revealed than in Ephesians 2:8-9. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
Once someone makes God’s team and enters His faith family, each is given at least one spiritual gift to be developed and used for His glory. It was the apostle Paul who spelled this reality out using words guided by the Holy Spirit in Romans 12:4-6. “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them:”
What was done to Anthony Burruto was very wrong at worst and shady at best! Hopefully this seemingly bogus decision will be reversed and he will be able to play and go on with his life with the confidence that he was indeed better than good enough.
But infinitely more important is that all of us who know we are, and never were, good enough on our own to please God, not only become members of His family by faith, but that we also carefully use the special gifts given us at the moment we were united to Him in Christ.
The second part of the above mentioned salvation verse in Ephesians chapter two continues and declares, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10)