One-handed pitcher inspires others while chasing dreams

One-handed pitcher inspires others while chasing dreams
Published: Feb. 25, 2016 at 2:37 AM CST
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COVINGTON, LA (WVUE) - Stop me if you've heard the story of the 15-year-old athlete that's 'still' inspired by a book that he can 'barely' remember.

"Jim Abbott went through the same obstacle I did, said Archbishop Hannan pitcher Timmy Ruffino. "Kids told him he couldn't play in sports that involved hands."

Abbott's story is one of accomplishment through perseverance and it's well documented in his 1990 book Against All Odds, which oddly enough, was the first book that Ruffino's parents ever read to him.

"After he was born, being surprised, unsure and uncertain, Tim played baseball," said Crystal Ruffino, Timmy's Mom. "He had a baseball card and it was Jim Abbott's. I was determined to figure out how to bring into play with Timmy growing up."

Because the Ruffinos recognized early on that their son would soon face the same challenges that Abbott did growing up. If you haven't figured it out yet, Ruffino, like Abbott, is a pitcher that was born with just one full hand and, up to this point, the Hannan freshman hasn't let being different stop him from doing anything, especially playing baseball.

"I wanna be in his position like it was when he was older," Timmy said. "I wanna make it big to where I can show anything's possible."

And so far, Timmy has done exactly that. For as long as he can remember, he's seen himself as a bit of a side show to the game that's going on.

Word of his ability to overcome and excel, either on the mound or in the field, has spread across the state. So when the Timmy show rolls into town, people want to come out and see for themselves.

"At first it was. People I don't know would come watch my game and I wouldn't know about it," Timmy said. "But the more it happens, I got comfortable with it."

Crystal said that parents weren't so gung-ho when her son first started playing. "A lot of questions and speculation from parents," she said. "(They would) ask a lot of questions about getting hurt."

Those same parents, along with pretty much every kid that came along, wanted to know, what happened. Which, to this day, is still hard for Timmy's father to explain.

"I asked why," said Tim Ruffino Sr. "Ultra sound, the test came back fine. We thought he was just sucking his thumb."

"It was more frustrating early on, said Crystal. "He'd ask when he would get his big hand like anyone else. That's when I pulled out the Jim Abbott book and told him that God made him how he is."

Medically speaking, Timmy was born with amniotic band syndrome or a-b-s, which can cause a number of different birth anomalies.

But, that's too technical for Timmy. His answer today is as it's always been, that God wanted him this way. It's why he's refused the opportunity to get a new hand.

About a year ago, Timmy's parents asked him, once again, if he'd like to be fitted with a brand new, state-of-the-art prosthetic for his right hand and Timmy's answer then was the same as it's been since he was one-year-old. An emphatic no. In fact, the only thing Timmy likes to be fitted with now, is the batting glove. It's specially made for his right hand so he can continue to excell at the plate as he bats right and throws left.

Timmy's younger brothers, Kohl and Keaton, are certainly impressed with their big brothers abilities on the diamond.

"I thought it was kind of weird," said Kohl. "He has one hand and can play baseball. It's just wierd a lil bit."

And that leads us to the other' part of this story which is, perhaps, the most important part. The impact that Timmy's can-do attitude has had on his younger brothers.

"I kind of look like him and I wanna be like my big brother" said Kohl.

"We have a batting cage at home. He works out and I try to do like the stuff he does. That really helps me a lot", added Keaton.

Timmy said there's a reason why he stays on his young siblings. "I show them that just because I have one hand, they can't be where I am," he said. "They should be doing things twice as good as me because they have two hands.

"They look up to him, his brothers and other kids that play behind him," said Crystal. "It gives them the ability that I can do it too.. baseball or anything in life..I can."

It's the message that Timmy grew up believing. That despite being different, he's really not. Especially out here, where as a true freshman, Timmy's competing for playing time on the varsity squad.

But, the fighter in him tells him that there's more to achieve, more to prove and more of his story still to tell, to the next person that asks.

"That I can overcome anything thrown at me I can overcome through God and my family, said Timmy, Jr. "I can overcome anything as long as I put my mind to it, I can overcome it."

His father believes that having just one hand to rely on has given his son an advantage over the other kids.

"I think him having the hand has fueled the fire to accomplish things," Timmy, Sr. said. "Baseball is something he loves and has a passion for it. He practices 6-7 days a week. That's his passion."

Timmy, Jr. added, "I'm sure they were a little upset because everyone wants a kid with two hands. Everyone wants the next Derek Jeter, but I think they're very proud of me."

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