Destined to play: Penn Valley Little Leaguer meets baseball hero
May 3, 2012
When Aaron West was born, he had a Chicago Cubs nursery waiting for him at home. As his dad, Chris, put it, it’s a baseball family.
Though Aaron was born without a fully formed left hand, that did not stop him from hitting the ball field like his dad and his older siblings.
“As soon as he started walking, we couldn’t keep him off the field,” said Chris West. “I was on a softball team, and when he was 2, he would grab a glove and go out and try to take my spot on the field.”
Now, at 6 years old, Aaron doesn’t have to take anybody else’s place and can run out to his own position on the diamond. With his dad as one of the coaches and his mom, Tina, on the bench as team mom, Aaron plays for the Penn Valley Little League Farm Cubs.
Though it took some time to adjust to his own style of play, Tina West said he started early and picked up the fundamentals quickly.
To watch him play is to watch any young boy with a love for the game – tenaciously chasing down ground balls and patiently waiting for his pitch so he can swing for the fences.
While well-adjusted, Aaron’s parents said he tended to be self-conscious about his hand and did not like people looking at it or touching it.
Then came Jim Abbott.
Abbott rose to fame as a one-handed Major League pitcher who threw a no-hitter in 1993. While his professional career was up and down, he became an inspiration for kids who were born a bit different – kids like Aaron.
Aaron’s parents had told him about Abbott and showed him pictures as a way of letting him know there were others like him, who had gone on to athletic success.
At the beginning of the month, Tina West heard about a signing for Abbott’s new book, “Imperfect: An Improbable Life,” and saw a rare opportunity for her son.
“There was only one signing in California,” she said. “We really thought it might be the only opportunity to meet him.”
So she and Aaron hopped in the car on a Friday and made the 10-hour drive to Huntington Beach. On Saturday, April 14, they stood first in line at 9:30 a.m. for a 3 p.m. signing at Barnes and Noble.
The trip proved to be worth it.
“(Aaron) had never met anybody born like him,” said Tina West. “When he met Jim, the look on his face was one of such joy and happiness.”
For Abbott’s part, the feeling was mutual.
“It’s one of the offshoots of my career – the chance to come across so many kids who were born just a little differently,” said Abbott during a phone interview with The Union. “Aaron just seemed like a great kid. I hope he understands how much I appreciate them driving all that way to see me. I was really touched to see that.”
The pair spent several minutes together, with Abbott showing Aaron some playing strategies and asking him to email updates on how he’s doing.
“Anytime I meet kids of any ability, I tell them to find something they love to do, something to give them the same kind of boost sports gave me,” said Abbott.
“Baseball is what I love to do. It allowed me to be active and be around a similar group of people. It gave me somewhere to feel like I belonged.”
Tina West said that since meeting Abbott, Aaron has been able to let his guard down and be himself. She said the time they spent together has been important in the Little Leaguer’s life and has only increased his desire to be on the field.
It seems that since he was born, that’s where Aaron has belonged.
“Baseball runs deep in our family,” said Chris West. “He was destined to play.”
To contact Sports Writer Anthony Barstow, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4232.