Cape Cal Ripken league gives young baseball player new grip on life

In Cape Coral, one baseball team is giving a disabled athlete a new grip on life.

“I like it because I get to have activities and I like to be outside and play,” said Jimmy Tillman.

Tillman loves playing baseball with other boys his age, though he has been forced to learn the game a bit differently than everyone else because of his left hand.

“I was born this way,” Tillman said.

At the Pelican Baseball Complex, the Cal Ripken minor Mets welcome all players—regardless of the differences or disabilities that make them who they are. Everyone is a part of the team.

“They’re nice to me and don’t stare at my hand,” Tillman said.

Tillman even got to take the field in the Mets’ final game of the regular season—a battle against the minor Rays for first place.

Tillman caught the first pitch of the game from Cape Coral’s Police Chief David Newlan.

“I was very impressed to hear that anybody that wants to play as the other kids and no matter what type of disability they may have is not a disability to them,” Newlan said.

The Mets went on to win the game 14-10.

But that wasn’t it. Coach Chris Risola and the team also made a mold of Tillman’s hand.

“It felt kinda…it was hard and it was rubbery,” he said.

The mold will be turned into customized sports gear for Tillman—all part of ongoing efforts to include adaptive athletes in the Cal Ripken Baseball League—and teach teammates to work together toward a greater goal.

“I would like to say thank you to those and that I am really excited about it,” Tillman said.

Reporter:Melinda Lee