This just goes to show that our vision–or lack thereof–only needs to limit us as much as we let it. I know my son probably doesn’t see as well as Underwood does, but even so, I think this is a great example that Peanut can do anything he sets his mind to, despite his poor eyesight. After all, if Underwood can do it, why can’t Peanut?
Pitcher brings one eye and a courageous heart to the mound
By Paul Vercammen, CNN
May 19, 2011 7:38 p.m. EDT
Two years ago, a line drive smashed into Jordan Underwood, destroying his left eye
Underwood now pitches with tinted safety glasses covering his acrylic left eye
Coach Mark Hogan at Southeast Missouri: “I wasn’t afraid of signing him”
The winning pitcher hopes “my story can inspire somebody else and motivate them”
Cape Girardeau, Missouri (CNN) — The comeback story of the one-eyed pitcher is the buzz of baseball dugouts in the Mississippi River Valley, passed down the bench like a bag of sunflower seeds.
No one would have called Jordan Underwood a quitter if he had never walked onto a pitcher’s mound again. But two years after a line drive smashed his cheekbone and destroyed his left eye, Underwood is back up on the hill, starting games. And winning.
Underwood, who now pitches with tinted safety glasses covering his acrylic left eye, is undefeated this season, 4-0, for Southeast Missouri State.
“To me, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. I guess I am kind of a modest guy,” Underwood, a senior, told CNN. “I just hope this is a teaching tool. Maybe if someone else is having a tough time — not necessarily losing an eye — and my story can inspire somebody else and motivate them, guess it’s all worth it in the end.”
Two years ago, when Underwood played for Seminole Junior College in Oklahoma, one of his pitches was launched back at his head by the batter.
Ky Burgess catches for Underwood at Southeast Missouri State now and was behind the plate to see and hear a baseball obliterate an eye-socket, but not a young man’s will.
“I heard this smack when it hit his face,” Ky recalls. “My first thought was: ‘Oh my God! Is he alive?’ He was not moving. We did not know if he was conscious. It’s one of the scariest things I have seen in my life, and I am still jumpy when I see a ball hit back through the box.”
Underwood says doctors told him if the ball had struck a few inches away, on his temple, he might have died.
“It took about a month or six weeks after that (accident) for me to realize I still wanted to play,” Underwood said. “I told myself I at least want to try to make this work.”
Underwood said he started from scratch, adapting in practice to pitching with one eye. The 22-year-old explains he needed to focus more on certain spots around home plate to make up for the change in depth perception.
Underwood is left handed, so his remaining good right eye has a wide open view of the plate. The baseball experts say he would not be pitching if the line drive had crushed that closer-to-home-plate right eye.
“I wasn’t afraid of signing him,” said Mark Hogan, his current coach at Southeast Missouri. “I knew nothing was wrong with his arm. And after I met him I was 100 percent in.
“He was looking for an opportunity and was serious about it. He was sort of dealt a bad hand. But he said he would give it his best shot. So he was my kind of guy.”
Underwood’s journey back almost got derailed by an obscure NCAA rule concerning all athletes missing one of a pair of organs, such as a kidney. Those players must get waivers and signed paperwork confirming they are aware of the risk of accidentally losing the remaining organ.
Underwood, his parents, doctors and others have signed that they are aware an accident to his right eye would leave him blind.
“He hung in there,” Hogan told CNN, admiring the way Hogan also took on the regulatory obstacles to his return.
Some 10 separate signatures and a batter’s box full of NCAA paperwork later, Underwood got cleared and began fooling hitters again last spring.
Burgess, the catcher, describes Underwood’s assortment of pitches as moving fastball, a sharp-breaking slider, a great curve ball and a change up “looking just like his fastball until it dives down at the last second.” Underwood’s fastball is timed out at 84 or 85 miles per hour.
Underwood says he’s not heard a lot from any teams about being picked in the major league draft in June, but adds there is always a chance.
“I’d really like to work in public relations,” Underwood, a marketing major, said. “Maybe I could do this for a team or sports organization, something in that area.”
But graduation is still a few weeks off and until then, Underwood still has the final weekend of this season and the possibility of the NCAA playoffs.
For every batter who will face Underwood, there’s dealing with those four pitches and a competitive edge built up from losing an eye and regaining his swagger on the mound.