Hunter Brown stood on the mound of Taylor Stadium before the Mizzou Tigers played the Georgia Bulldogs on May 4th. The nine year old was set to throw the ceremonial first pitch of the day. Hunter couldn’t stay patient any longer and the moment the announcer said his name he let the ball rip from his right hand. It took years of hard work for Hunter to be able to throw a baseball and it all led up to that beautiful moment.
Hunter has hemiplegic cerebral palsy after suffering from a stroke when he was born. This causes Hunter to have weakness and pain on the left side of his body. It’s also harder for him to control the muscles on that side as well. Hunter has visited occupational and physical therapists since he was young, over the last two years Hunter has worked with a clinic called TigerOT.
TigerOT is run by the School of Health Professions at Missouri University. They have been crucial in helping Hunter’s daily life. In the beginning they taught Hunter how to put on socks and button his pants. As Hunter got older he wanted to get involved with sports from watching his friends play. The clinic helped with that as well, teaching him how to dribble a basketball with both hands. This is an incredible feat in itself because Hunter’s left hand requires eight shots of botox every three months so that his palms remain open.
As it got warmer outside Hunter noticed that his peers were playing baseball and wanted to follow suit. Even though he couldn’t use his glove on the left hand to catch a baseball, Hunter was still determined to play the sport. He would catch the ball with the glove on his right hand, pull the ball into his body, and throw it over his head with the glove hand.
For almost 45 minutes a day Hunter had to perform the same motion. He was frustrated because he wanted to learn how to throw and catch the way others were. Hopefully that is something Hunter can try in the future, for now it’s about being able to participate in those sports.
Before Hunter’s big day, he chatted via Facetime with one of his former occupational therapists, Kyle Faulkner, according to an article on kansascity.com, Kyle gave Hunter some tips on how to throw the first pitch before asking, “You nervous?”
Of course Hunter, like anyone would in the moment, answered with a short, “Yeah.”
Hunter was nervous, but he still showed Missouri baseball coach Steve Bieser how he would grip the ball on the first pitch. He owned the moment before delivering the pitch with confidence.
After the pitch, Hunter was handed the microphone so all of Taylor stadium could hear him. “Play Ball,” Hunter said cheerfully. The two years spent working with TigerOT had paid off.