There are things in life that amaze me, but none of them hold a candle to my children. All three of my boys delight me in their own ways, but for my middle one, Nate, it’s not for the reason(s) everybody is probably thinking right now. No, it’s not because he pitched a no-hitter several summers ago, which lead to a big local news story with sports anchor, Brad Fanning, on KCTV5, though that was really cool. No, it’s not because he threw out the first pitch at a Kansas City Royals baseball game and asked his oldest brother, Andy, to be the catcher, although asking his older brother to catch for him so they could share that moment together (and probably because he’s a really good catcher for his high school team) did make me super proud. No, it’s not even when he was chosen to be the lead role in a in a Nike commercial that was shown during the Olympics this past summer, though when I saw it air on YouTube the first time, tears of joy streamed down my face (and still do every time I watch it). No, as funny as it may sound, it’s not for any of those reasons. The reason Nate truly astounds me may surprise you. When Nate turned 1 year old, we were all sitting around the kitchen table, celebrating his birthday. There was a cup of water, not far from his reach. As he sat on my lap, he reached for the cup, but his dad, who was on my left, swiftly moved it to a place he “thought” was out of Nate’s reach. Nate again reached for the cup, but this time, his Grandpa Muehe, to my right, moved it again to what he “thought” was out of Nate’s reach. As these two very capable men with their four hands tried to maneuver this cup of water out of Nate’s reach, he wasn’t about to be deterred. Four hands were not going to discourage my one-handed, determined child, and in one swoop, Nate finally grabbed the cup and knocked it over. I couldn’t stop laughing. None of us could. That was the day his dad and I would both say we “knew” that no matter what happened in his life, nothing was going to stop Nate. As Nate got older, he never thought of himself as different. He loved playing on the playground at the park while his older brother had football practice. He loved the monkey bars as much as any other kid, and was delighted when I would lift him up and help him swing through each one. At the age of only three years old, he could ride a skateboard down our driveway and turn it onto the sidewalk. He played soccer for a few years, but it never was really his thing. I think he thought there was way too much running involved. By the time Nate was 5, he buttoning his own buttons, tying his shoes, catching a football, swinging a bat, and riding a bike without training wheels. Being active and outside was what he loved. As he aged, his dad could see he had a strong right arm, great aim, and could throw a ball further than most kids his age. That sealed his fate as a center fielder and pitcher. It was around Nate’s 4th grade year when we decided to give him private pitching lessons with a former KC Royals pitcher, Jaime Bluma. Jaime taught him everything he knew about pitching, and Nate thrived. His pitching coach was always praising Nate and gave him the most positive feedback, and Nate loved every moment. Jaime was such a boost for him, and I think over the years he really helped instill Nate’s resolve that he could do anything he set his mind to. When his baseball coach, Donnie Happel, came along, that was another turning point for Nate. Coach Donnie accepted Nate for exactly who he was; a kid that loved to play baseball. I realize now, looking back, that Jaime and Donnie never thought of Nate any other way, and I believe that really helped Nate become the person he is today. It’s funny how these moments in time and people in our lives can help shape the type of person somebody is going to be. Nate isn’t captivated with himself. He’s not conceited or arrogant, and he doesn’t think he’s more special than anybody else. In fact, he’s quite the opposite. He’s more like, “What is so darn special about me? I don’t get it.” THIS is the part that amazes me; that Nate truly doesn’t get how amazing and inspiring he is for many people, including me, his dad, and especially his brothers. He doesn’t understand the hype that has come about because of people like him. To him, he’s just a kid that loves hanging out with his friends, goofing around with his brothers, laying out for diving catches on the baseball field, and doing flips off the high dive with his younger brother, Matthew. He’s just Nate, and that to me is the most amazing and best thing of all.
Check out an article on Nate! He was also a 2012 Best of the Flaunters recipient and his Nike commercial recently featured in the “Find Your Greatness” Feb 1 2013 DHFI blog post! http://www.incrediblefeatures.net/blog/2011/09/twelve-year-old-with-one-arm-excels-as-baseball-pitcher/