If you ever hear yourself muttering “I can’t,” think of Tom Willis. He threw the first pitch at a Giants vs. Mariners game Monday night, which is a remarkable feat (pun intended) when you realize that Tom has no arms.
But he has two very limber feet, which he uses to do pretty much every a hand can tackle — cooking, driving, dressing, and writing, the New York Post reported.
And, apparently, throwing a baseball as well as the pros.
His technique is impressive, form even more so. He notches the baseball in the crook between his big and second toe, and gives it a good chuck with a flick of his ankle. With the exception of his obvious disability, he looks just like any MLB pitcher. He described this method in 2011.
“Basically, I hold the ball with my right foot and step back with my left leg. Then I lift my left leg into a kick like a real pitcher does. I bring that leg down slowly and the right leg comes up. Using the momentum that I’ve created in my hips when I bring my left foot forward, I get an extra whip and just try to throw straight at the catcher with the ball coming from my right foot. Most times it gets there. It’s similar to the same way people throw with their arms, but I do it with my legs and feet.”
The first pitch took place at AT&T park in San Francisco, just before a game between the Giants and the Mariners, the New York Daily News added. Willis has thrown the first pitch at other baseball games — in Boston, Kansas City, San Diego, Los Angeles, and New York.
And he’s not showing off — he’s trying to inspire other people with disabilities not to be hampered by them. His motto: “No Hands, No Arms, No Problem.”
Willis is a congenital, bilateral upper amputee. Now 56, he began the Pitch for Awareness program in 2006 with the goal of throwing the first pitch with his foot at 30 stadiums across the country.
A lifelong baseball fan, Tom began to throw with his feet when he was elementary school and he wanted to play with the other kids at recess. This talent earned some national attention when his motivational talks caught the attention of a local news station, which filmed him shooting tennis balls and Frisbees into the audience with his foot before he spoke.
The point of the demonstration was to show people, “I may not have arms, but that doesn’t stop me from doing everything they can do.”
The Padres saw this impressive talent, called to ask him to throw out the first pitch of a game, and the rest is history.
Every time he shows up at a stadium, he also speaks locally on behalf of the MLB, encouraging people with disabilities to erase “I can’t” from their vocabularies, as well.
[Photo Courtesy MLB Screengrab]