Babe Ruth Tourney: spotlight on Marana’s Jake Thompsonby Andy Morales on Jul. 14, 2012, under Sports
Marana junior Jake Thompson plays baseball just like anybody else. Well that’s not true, he actually plays it a little better than a lot of boys his age (and older).
What makes him so different then?
Jake is 16-years-old…I’ve raised three teenagers…all teenagers are different. He has a beard, he plays guitar really, really well, he wants to be a doctor someday….oh, and he plays the game with a prosthetic on his left leg – just below his knee.
I noticed he was wearing one because of my background in coaching and teaching disabled adults and kids but other spectators still had to point him out to me when I arrived to watch him play this weekend. The fact is, Jake is not disabled – he is differently-abled just like the rest of us.
The only way you or anybody else would ever know Jake was born with Fibular Hemimelia was if he or his parents told you he was. (If you catch him on a good day, he might actually tell you he was attacked by a shark.)
Jake’s mom found out her baby boy was developing without a fibula in his left leg during an ultrasound at five months. One can imagine what her feelings were at that moment but her worries were soon put to rest by Jake himself.
“The doctors informed us of how Jake was developing,” explained Laura. “I guess I really didn’t know that would mean they would have to amputate part of his leg.”
“He had the surgery at nine months,” added his father Curt. “He sat up after the surgery and popped his head up and looked around. I knew he would be OK after that.”
“He was really cute with the scabs on his face from the surgical tape,” Laura added with a smile as she remembered.
“We saw children at the hospital walking around holding tubes and IVs (Intravenous Sedations) and with no hair because they had cancer. We knew our problems were nothing compared to that,” said Curt.
Curt used to roll balls side to side to Jake when he was a toddler to help him improve his mobility and it was a memory that Jake told me unprompted so it must have been something that was very important in his young life.
“I obviously didn’t know what it was like to have both feet,” explained Jake. “I got fast really quick.”
He also went through dozens of prosthetics growing up because many were not built for athletics. The Thompsons have seen first-hand the advances in appliances and the recent wars have also introduced new technology due to the amount of veterans coming back home with missing limbs.
“They would break about every nine months,” said Curt.
“They fitted him with a good one now,” added Laura. “This one was made for a person who weighs 225 lbs and I doubt Jake weighs half that but he still breaks them.”
“I used to have ones that were more flexible for my stability,” said Jake. “They weren’t made for athletics and running. I would break them all the time and the people making them would wonder what I was doing so now I have one that has bounce to it and is made for running.”
It was through that process that Jake met up with the “Wounded Warriors” and their “Amputee Softball team.” The Warriors are veterans who play exhibition games around the country to show they can continue to rise above any challenge.
“My prosthetist found out they were looking for a bat boy when they came to play against Arizona,” explained Jake. “I came out and they liked me and I actually got to play with them because one of their players got hurt right before the game.”
Mike Candrea hosted the Warriors in early March for the exhibition game featuring former Wildcats. “It was really a blast – really cool,” said Jake.
“I got so excited and I got the hang of softball and I play with them whenever they are in the area and Arizona was awesome with how they treated us.”
Jake does not see the Warriors as personal heroes but as role models. “I was not used to seeing other people who looked like me,” Jake added. “They are just really cool guys.”
Jake started taking guitar lessons when he was nine-years-old and he got so good that his mom took him to an audition to play in a band at a local church a year later.
“They all looked at me when I got there,” said Jake. “But after they heard me play they told me I was in.”
He’s been playing in that band ever since and the best part about the whole thing is he gets a paycheck. “It’s a really, really huge part of my life.”
Jake’s older sister Jennifer played basketball at Canyon del Oro and won a state championship there before moving on to play for Santa Barbara City College and he has always seen her as someone who has helped him along the way.
“She once volunteered to help a child in a wheelchair when she was in kindergarten,” said Laura. “She has always been able to help children in that way.”
Of course, not all children and adults have been kind to Jake. Kids will be kids and uneducated adults will always see “differences” as something wrong rather than something to celebrate. But, Jake has always been kind in return.
Besides trying to impress the girls by telling them a shark ate his leg for lunch, he is willing to show his leg off to show he is just like the rest of us.
In fact, the only thing shocking about his leg is that he has a Nebraska Cornhusker “tattoo” on it. (His parents went to school there so he can be forgiven.) He tells me he wants to see them play football in person.
You can see Jake and his Marana summer teammates at the Babe Ruth 15U State Tournament held at the Kino Sports Complex this weekend.
Marana was playing the NW Lions Saturday until a rain storm came so the game will be completed on Sunday morning at 9 am. Likewise, The Show and Nitro will finish their game also.
Oro Valley and Ironwood Ridge are the only team remaining in the winners bracket.
Jake played freshman football and baseball at Canyon del Oro before transferring to Marana where he played varsity and junior varsity baseball last year. If all goes well according to Jake, he will be going to college to study medicine rather than playing sports.
“We are blessed,” said Laura. “It’s all good.”
Babe Ruth State Tournament
15U (July 13-16: Kino Sports Complex)
Saturday, July 14
IR Dirtybird Navy 10, Tucson Nitro 0
Oro Valley Dirtbags over Marana
The Show 14, Surprise 4
Sunday, July 15
Oro Valley vs. Ironwood Ridge, 9 am
Marana Mayhem Grey vs. NW Lions, 9 am (rain delay)
Nitro vs. The Show, 9 am (rain delay)
Two more elimination rounds to follow
Monday, July 16
Championship, 5:30 pm
13 PREP (July 13-15: Surprise)
Friday, July 13
Surprise 3, Tucson The Show 2
Tucson CBC Cubs 4, Somerton 0
Surprise 2, Tucson CBC Cubs 0
Somerton 12, The Show 11
Saturday, July 14
Tucson CBC Cubs vs. Somerton
14U (July 12-15: Surprise)
Thursday, July 12
Tucson Bobcats 17, AZ Valley Dogs 3
Oro Valley 7, Surprise 1
Hamilton 10, Ironwood Ridge 9
Ironwood Ridge 14, Surprise 1
Tucson Bobcats 25, Yuma 1
Hamilton 5, Oro Valley 3
Friday, July 13
Tucson Bobcats 7, Hamilton 6
Oro Valley 9, Ironwood Ridge 6
Saturday, July 14
Hamilton vs. Oro Valley
Tucson Bobcats vs. TBD (Championship)
Kino Baseball League
Sun Belt Tournament
July 9-14: Kino
Championship: Saturday, July 14
Centerfield Nationals over The Yard