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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

One hand not stopping Andrew Austen from being multi-sport standout

Andrew Austen may only be 14 years old, but he is still a role model and inspiration despite his young age.

According to a Philly.com profile, Austen lives in the lower East part of Pennsylvania and competes in several different sports despite being born without a right hand. Austen’s parents initially pushed him into soccer figuring it would be easier for him. Though he excelled at the sport, he stopped playing because he found it boring. Instead, Austen now plays a lot of golf, baseball, and basketball. He’s actually so good that some coaches don’t even notice he’s only playing with one hand.

Philly.com’s story says Austen was in a basketball draft for the Narberth League that was conducted in a “blind” manner where coaches did not evaluate players before selecting teams. It wasn’t until he had scored six points in the team’s first game that his coach, Brendan Dougherty, realized Austen doesn’t have a hand.

Not having a hand doesn’t even seem to matter.

“The kid is an athlete, he can just flat-out play,” Dougherty told Philly.com.

Austen is also a pitcher on his American Legion baseball team. He plays in a manner similar to former Angels pitcher Jim Abbott, who was also born without a hand; Austen fields with his left and switches his glove quickly enough to use his left hand to throw.

One team even tested him this summer.

Figuring Austen would have difficulty fielding his position, they bunted three times. Austen threw all three out.

Unlike Abbott, Austen uses a prosthetic device that helps him hit. The device is structured so Austen can release the prosthetic after he’s hit the ball so that he can run more comfortably. He uses the prosthetic when he hits his driver in golf, and only began using it in baseball after seeing how much it helped his golf game.

As you can tell, Austen is an extremely active teenager and doesn’t let the lack of a hand get in his way. In fact, about the only time he uses the hand as an excuse is when he’s trying to get out of carrying things as a chore.

The young teen’s proficiency even provided comfort to another family that learned one of its children would be born without a hand.

“I have everything but a hand. I can use this,” Andrew told Philly.com, pointing to where his arm hooks at the elbow and stops, “to tie my shoes, hold things, button my shirt; I can use it for everything but grabbing. When people say it’s a disability, it’s not a really a disability at all.”

Austen has a wonderful attitude and has me believing he doesn’t even have a disability. Between him and youngsters like 12-year-old Mikey Stolzenberg who plays lacrosse despite not having arms or legs, Jacob Raleigh who is a successful tennis player with only one arm, and quadruple amputee Kyle Maynard who still climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, we’re seeing that some individuals won’t let anything keep them from being active and competing in sports.



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