I was standing in line at a gas station in rural South Carolina. I had pulled over to use the bathroom, to buy a hot cup of mud, and God willing, to purchase chili cheese Fritos.
There were two kids in baseball uniforms, standing ahead of me in line. It was October.
Little League isn’t generally played in October, I was thinking. Maybe they were attending a baseball camp. Maybe it was just a practice?
They were your quintessential American boys. White pants, stained in red clay. Jerseys untucked. Hair, bleached by the sun. They smelled like little-boy sweat.
They reminded me of a thousand feckless summers I spent shagging fly balls. I was a chubby outfielder who wore Husky jeans. But in my heart, I was Dale Murphy.
When the two boys reached the cashier, the old woman called them by name and asked how they’re families were doing. And that’s when I noticed one of the boys was missing his left arm.
The boy used several contorted movements to place his items onto the counter without dropping them.
He was buying mostly candy. Resse’s. Crunch bar. Skittles. Starburst. Gatorade—Frost-Glacier blue. The only thing missing was the Big League Chew.
Has our culture fallen so far that young ball players no longer appreciate Big League Chew? This columnist wants to know.
The woman behind the register just smiled at him. Her voice sounded like a pack of Newports.
“How’d you play today?” she said.
He shrugged. “Okay, I guess.”
“Are you in pain?”
He rotated his missing arm at the shoulder socket. “I’m still getting used to it.”
She nodded. “I’ll bet.”
Another smile from the woman. “You’re doing great, sweetie. You’ll adjust. It’ll take time, but after a while it’ll be almost second nature. Look how far you’ve already come.”
She placed his candy into a small plastic bag. “You were out there trying, that’s what matters. Lot of boys wouldn’t even do that much.”
She underlined her point by saying, “I am so proud of you, sweetie, you know that?”
He said nothing. The kid took his candy and left. I watched the boy wander through the parking lot with a clot of other kids in uniforms. I saw the other kids laughing and pushing each other around.
The young man with the amputation, however, kept off to the side. He wasn’t in the mood for horse play. They all piled into a minivan driven by someone’s dad. The tail lights winked out of sight.
I wanted to ask the woman about this boy. I wanted to know how he lost his arm. I wanted to know how a child who has lost his arm has the wherewithal to even attempt to play baseball with other kids his age.
I to somehow tell him what it meant to me to see him wearing his magnificent uniform.
Instead, I just bought my Fritos and java and kept silent. Before I left, I turned to thank the cashier and said:
“That boy who was in here just now, you know him?”
“Yeah, I know him.”
“He seemed like a pretty incredible kid.”
“Oh, he is.”
“Can you get a message to him for me?”
She smiled. “Sure.”
“Please tell him to buy some Big League Chew next time. It’s important.”
Another smile. “Okay.”
“And please, tell him you’re not ￼the only one who’s proud of him.”
Tim - October 16, 2022 7:16 am
The Right to Bear Arms.
It’s in the Constitu-Sean (or something like that).
Somethin’ for Big Leaguers (or the beleaguered) to Chew on for a minute or two.
mccutchen52 - October 16, 2022 8:51 am
My son played little league with a young man that only had one arm. I, along with some of the other dads that coached, would like to have been able to pick him for the team we were coaching but his dad got to pick him first. The young man could play any position and could swing a bat and place his balls where ever the opposing team was not. He was like all the other kids, he just wanted to play baseball.
ALLEN - October 16, 2022 10:55 am
I enjoy your sports stories and your kid stories and your inspirational stories. Especially good when they all come together! Makes us all proud! And I want to hear more about Marigold the Magnificent
David Britnell - October 16, 2022 12:17 pm
He must be an awesome kid! You made me well up again! Have a great day Sean
sjhl7 - October 16, 2022 12:21 pm
Another home run! Thank you, Sean.
Flyfisherfugazy - October 16, 2022 12:47 pm
Sean, I hope you read the comments. This reminded me of my own “sandlot” years. Benny, sans his left arm from birth, “our” center fielder could shag a fly and with some slight of hand magic throw a bullet to home plate. And was a great one armed gap hitter. We never thought too much about it, he was just Benny. Hope he traveled the rest of his life with the aplomb.
Elizabeth Clark - October 16, 2022 1:12 pm
I’m crying and I have to go to church.
Gigi - October 16, 2022 1:30 pm
What a great kid. I’m proud of him too !!!
Tom - October 16, 2022 1:36 pm
Sean some times you write Psalms.
Janet W. - October 16, 2022 7:09 pm
Yes, he does!
PMc - October 16, 2022 7:57 pm
Tom, you are so right, thank you! Sean that little baseball player will love hearing your praise 🤠
Peace and Love from Birmingham
Patricia Gibson - October 16, 2022 1:45 pm
Well I teared up on that one! Sean you have an amazing heart❤️God bless you🙏
Chasity Davis Ritter - October 16, 2022 1:50 pm
You got me again Sean…..
pdjpop - October 16, 2022 2:24 pm
Just a thought passed through my mind as I finished reading this intriguing observation:
That young man has an experience that will prepare him for the bad experiences he will have in life. He can’t be served with much, if any, worse circumstances than his loss so early in life. He has experienced a very tough, life changing event. The other youngsters do not have this advantage unless they really get to know the heart of their teammate with one arm. He is a healthy example. And with the love and support of his community (like this loving cashier) he has a chance to be a super man. God bless him. And God bless you Sean for these special examples of wonderful people.
John Maddox - October 16, 2022 2:34 pm
As always I love your stories which aren’t stories, just pictures of life if we would just stop to take it all in. Thank you
Don Bedell - October 16, 2022 2:43 pm
You know for your bag of knowledge that any child under 18 with problems either deformities or amputations will be taken care of for free. Prosthetics provided for by the Shriners. They just have to contact any mason.
julie bordelon - October 16, 2022 3:55 pm
Dee Thompson - October 16, 2022 3:59 pm
My son lost his right hand to frostbite when he was 5. When he was younger he played baseball for 2 years, and he was a better player than most of the boys with two hands. He would catch the ball, stick his glove under his “short arm,” pull out the ball and throw it. He practiced a lot and was very fast at it. Still, he quit after a couple of years to concentrate on tennis. He is now grown, and doesn’t wear a prosthetic. He still plays tennis, works as a cook in a restaurant, and doesn’t let the missing hand slow him down. You can read more about him here: https://thecookscook.com/features/the-cook-with-a-mighty-left-arm/
Dee Thompson - October 16, 2022 4:03 pm
One final thought. Years ago I sang with the Knoxville Opera Chorus and there was a man who sang in all the operas who was missing his entire left arm. He had lost it in Korea, I think. He owned an accounting firm and was very successful. He was married and had three grown children. He loved to sing. He had a very full and successful life, despite having only one arm. [He didn’t wear a prosthetic and just FYI most upper limb amputees choose to forego prosthetics because they aren’t very useful.]
Anne Arthur - October 16, 2022 5:38 pm
Observing a great kid and a supportive community who obviously loves him, and relating it to us the way you do is great writing. Thank you, Sean.
MAM - October 16, 2022 7:01 pm
We are all proud of him, Sean. He, I hope, with the help of God, family and supporters like the cashier, will grow into a wonderful young man who finds success through his strengths.
Deborah - October 16, 2022 8:33 pm
What a beautiful soul u r! Ur way with words is so fantastic. I can’t WAIT to read You Are My Sunshine-it was just delivered (yep! Amazon delivers on Sundays).
pattymack43 - October 16, 2022 9:26 pm
Kathie Sheeley - October 16, 2022 11:15 pm
I love your writing so much. I’ve read every poster for close to a year now I’m & follow you on FB. I would love to attend one of your events. I live in Atlanta. I checked your Events calendar just now & saw a Sold Out event coming up in Thomasville Ga. I would like to find out if there’s an email list that I could get on to be notified of future events. Thank you.
Bev - October 16, 2022 11:19 pm
Cordell Lawrence - October 17, 2022 2:22 am
I’m real proud of him too, courageous young man.
Linda Moon - October 19, 2022 12:01 am
I’m behind on my daily reading of Sean of the South posts. You could say I’ve been tied up, metaphorically of course. So, now I’ll comment: “Look how far you’ve already come”. How kind and wise of the woman to say this. One of my best childhood friends lost her leg to amputation because of cancer, and she’s come far for a long time now. I’m proud of that kid you told us about, Sean.
Mary K. - October 30, 2022 7:11 pm
Encouragement costs nothing to give and is so treasured by the recipient.