Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Florida's teen amputee baseball player doesn't let getting cut from high school team get him down, he's now training even harder for the next tryout

George Diaz commentary in the Orlando Sentinel:

Anthony Burruto (pictured) could have easily gobbled up his 15 minutes of fame and forgotten his sense of purpose. It was quite the ego rush for a 16-year-old kid to answer calls from CNN, HLN, MSNBC and GMA (Good Morning America).

They were all chasing the same story: How exactly do you bounce a kid with prosthetic legs from a high school baseball team when he believes he's earned the right to play with able-bodied teammates?

The decision remains controversial more than a month after I chronicled Anthony's frustration after he was cut on the second day of tryouts at Dr. Phillips High School. Anthony has a bunch of people cheering for him, including a girl he didn't even know setting up a Facebook support page for him. He also has some people who think he's acting privileged and whiny.

But there's no sense in revisiting old news. Anthony certainly hasn't.

He's too busy proving his detractors wrong. He works out four days a week with a personal trainer who specializes in athletes who have physical limitations and military guys who are amputees.

"The kid has got an unbelievable attitude," Jim Borda said. "How could you not want to spend time with a kid like that?"

Anthony is not a charity case. He's never viewed himself that way. He's competed successfully in all levels of play as a pitcher, even though he was born without a shinbone in his left leg and without a fibula in his right leg. The media attention after he was cut allowed him to tell his story, without any filters of self-absorbed pity.

That's the point that some people missed with Anthony's story. He was never looking for a "disabled kid" mulligan. He simply wanted a fair shot. He never felt he got one.

That kind of competitive sports should be celebrated, not chastised.

"One closed door has opened many doors for him," said Diane Burruto, Anthony's mother. "If anything, it taught him to stand up for what he believes in, even if he stands alone he feels in his heart he was discriminated against, and he is fighting back. And it has opened doors for him all over the world."

He will be the motivational speaker at the annual dinner for Goodwill Industries in Ohio in May.

He will work out for former MLB star Gary Sheffield, who will evaluate him, as part of a deal set up by ESPN Radio 1080 this summer.

He has been offered a scholarship to a "very good "private school in the area. PS: It's not recruiting if he isn't playing.

He still attends Dr. Phillips, despite the icy relationship between the baseball coaches and some of his teammates. The brush-off from some teammates is what bothers Anthony the most, but if he wanted the easy out, he could have transferred by now.

Instead, he is in the gym, building leg strength, doing core work and trying to overcome his most significant challenge on the mound_ covering bunts. That appears to be the main concern for Dr. Phillips coach Michael Bradley.

"It's his loss," Anthony said of Bradley. "He's not going to stop me. He's just motivating me to train harder."

The end game for Anthony to play on a traveling team over the summer. He's still looking around, hoping somebody gives him a shot.

At 6-1 and 185 pounds _ he can also bench press 235 pounds _ Anthony isn't some wimpy kid crying for sympathy. Forget those prosthetic legs.

Today, he stands stronger than ever.

And he plans on trying out for the Dr. Phillips baseball team next season, too.

"And if I get cut," Anthony said, "it's going to be his loss once again."