In 2017 Luke Terry was one of the best baseball players at his middle school in Tennessee. One of the special attributes that attracted his school team selectors to the teenager was the way in which he successfully navigated the demands of the game against all the odds. Indeed, Luke was by no means a typical player, since he had a very specific physical condition to overcome. But due to his unwavering determination on the diamond, the amazing young catcher won a place in his school’s side. What’s more, he’s even gone on to inspire professional sportspeople.
Luke lives on his family’s cattle farm outside the small city of Lewisburg, just south of Nashville, TN. And in early 2017 the 14-year-old was sports mad; in particular, he was absolutely crazy for baseball. As a consequence, then, the youngster tried out for Cornersville Middle School’s baseball team – the Bulldogs.
Thankfully, Luke’s efforts paid off, and he got the jersey. And before long, junior baseball fans began to pay attention to the rookie player. Mike Tatum, coach for the Bulldogs, seemed to be impressed with the teenager too, telling The Tennessean in 2017, “[Luke] has a work ethic that is unbelievable.” As a result, the eighth-grader soon established himself as one of the school side’s best players and climbed to number three in the Bulldogs’ batting order.
However, the thing that really set Luke apart from his team mates was not so much his promising talent but the way in which he approached the game. The simple fact was that although he played as a catcher, the teen only had one arm. However, Luke has never let that harsh reality hold him back from anything in life – least of all playing hardball.
Sadly, doctors had been forced to amputate Luke’s right arm when he was just 19 months old, after he had acquired E. coli. Unfortunately, the intestinal bacteria had spread into the toddler’s limb through a peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC), which was being used to treat the dangerous infection in hospital.
Luke’s mom, Dana, told The Tennessean, “They put the PICC line in his arm, and the bacteria went to his arm, where the PICC line was. It just started eating his arm away. They had to put [the line] in because he had to have so many shots and blood drawn so much that his veins were just mush.”
Indeed, it must have been an extremely harrowing time for all involved, since Luke flatlined no fewer than three times as surgeons operated on the toddler. However, the boy’s fighting spirit was only just beginning to emerge. Mercifully, Luke pulled through and, together with his family, he grew determined to live a so-called “normal” life.
And from a very young age, Luke adapted to an existence minus his right arm. For instance, he developed a work-around to play video games – guiding the controller with a foot and using his left hand for the buttons. He is also said to have learned to hunt single-handed, using both a gun and a crossbow, while also finding the time to help out on the family farm.
Dana underlined her son’s dogged determination to The Tennessean. “He teaches himself how to do things and what’s best for him,” the mom explained. “I try to show him the easiest way. Sometimes he’ll do it, but sometimes he’ll tell me he can do it his way better.”
And, evidently, Luke’s way extended to the baseball diamond. On the field, Luke perfected his receiving and delivery skills by repeatedly catching a ball thrown by his pitcher. The boy would then toss the ball up while adjusting his left hand before snatching at the ball in midair and sending it on its way. And, quite frankly, the seamless move is a sight to behold.
And others soon came to learn all about Luke’s special single-handed skills. Indeed, Travis Holland, a baseball coach at the nearby Eagleville School in Tennessee, thought they should be appreciated by a wider audience after he first saw Luke in action in early 2017. As a result, Holland took to Twitter to say, “Big shout out to Cornersville’s middle-school catcher. With the use of one arm, this guy is getting it done. What a stud.”
Subsequently, Luke’s remarkable story was picked up by the social media-scouring local and national press. However, the young catcher did not let all this outside attention throw him off his game. In addition, he remained immensely modest about his abilities. Speaking of his prowess on the baseball field, Luke told The Tennessean, “I don’t even think about it. Fans tell me, ‘You’re an inspiration.’ They want me to go a long ways.”
And Luke won himself even more fans when an online video of him playing baseball went viral in April 2018. The footage went on to gain more than three million views and captured the attention of top sportsmen including former NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace, football and baseball stalwart Deion Sanders and World Series ballplayer Chipper Jones.
And when MLB legend Jerry Hairston Jr. got to hear Luke’s tale, he was moved enough to pass it on. “This is not a baseball thing,” he insisted to the official Major League Baseball website in April 2018. “This is a kid that won’t allow any type of circumstance to derail his dream. People use the ‘no excuses’ quote all the time, but this kid lives it.”
And Luke continues to live his dream. The catcher is now at Cornersville High School, but he still turns out for the Bulldogs. He has even branched out into acting as umpire for the local youth league. Furthermore, thanks to his first brush with fame, Luke has already had the honor of appearing at a Baltimore Orioles game, where he caught a pitch from Hall of Famer Jim Palmer. Plus, the teenager has thrown the first ball at both a Nashville Sounds game and an Atlanta Braves outing.
And if Luke has things his own way, these special appearances will not be his only taste of Major League Baseball. The teen is hoping to follow the lead of Pete Gray and Jim Abbott – the only two professional baseball players to have so far made it in the great game despite only having one hand each.
Pennsylvania man Gray had his right arm amputated from above the elbow following a wagon accident as a youngster in 1923. However, in 1945 he played outfield for the St. Louis Browns. The amputee went on to make 77 appearances for the Missouri team and inspired many with his achievements – not least incapacitated servicemen returning from World War II. Subsequently, the St. Louis Browns moved east to Maryland in 1953, where the team changed its name to the Baltimore Orioles.
More recently, Jim Abbott of Flint, Michigan, enjoyed a lengthy career in Major League Baseball, beginning with the California Angels in 1989. The pitcher with no right hand took part in a total of ten seasons, including stints throwing for the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees. Abbott retired from the league in 1999 and is now a motivational speaker.
So, as Gray and Abbott have proved before him, there is nothing to stop Luke from reaching for his dreams – whatever they may be. And according to his middle-school baseball coach, we could all learn a thing or two from the boy’s inspirational work ethic.
Praising the young catcher, Mike Tatum told The Tennessean, “A lot of us coaches get to complaining about something we can’t do. Then if you look at [Luke], we should be ashamed of ourselves sometimes. If you want to, there is about anything you can do. Just watch him.” And doubtless plenty of people will be watching Luke’s progress with great interest…