His Yankee Stadium pitch will go down as a remarkable feet.
Tom Willis, who was born without arms or hands, will throw Tuesday’s ceremonial pitch using his feet ahead of a Yankees and Blue Jays game — his 29th toss at a Major League Baseball stadium and just one shy of his quest to do so at all 30 big league ballparks.
The 64-year-old Washington, DC, native who now lives in San Diego said he grew up loving baseball – especially his beloved Washington Senators (now Texas Rangers) — and dreamed of playing for the pros.
“Every little boy who picks up a baseball dreams of someday playing on a professional team in a professional stadium,” said Willis, a video and TV producer-turned-motivational speaker. “As a child I shared that same dream. My disability, however, made that dream impossible. But the opportunity to throw out the first pitch is the next best thing.”
Learning to sub his lower limbs for missing upper limbs, Willis said he discovered how to play ball with his feet – and does the same thing with writing, cooking and, with specially equipped steering controls for his feet, even driving a car.
His motto: “No hands, no arms, no problem.”
On a flight to New York ahead of his big pitch, Willis — insisting he hardly ever gets nervous — admitted to The Post the enormity of the House That Ruth Built is weighing on him.
“Yankee stadium is it. I’ve pitched at Fenway, at Wrigley. It’s the top of the heap – it’s mecca for a true baseball fan,” he said.
Willis’ journey started 15 years ago, when he was delivering a speech at a local school and deployed his signature move — playfully kicking a tennis ball with his foot out to the audience.
When a local TV station captured his “wicked curveball,” Willis was suddenly tapped to do it again, but with a baseball, during the ceremonial pitch at a San Diego Padres game a week later.
He said a little league coach friend helped him cultivate a system to pitch with his feet.
At the time, Willis said his only goal was to throw from the professional pitcher’s mound — not from the grass, even it the ball bounced. It did just that.
“But I didn’t care,” said Willis, who’s been having a ball ever since.
The idea snowballed and now Willis’s “Pitch for Awareness” tour shows baseball fans and skeptics that anything is possible.
“The most important thing is that people get my message,” he said. “Just because a person has a disability doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. I turn obstacles into opportunities, challenges into championships and I make the impossible possible.”
He said he still dreads “the absolute worst thing” that can happen — that he’ll lose control of the ball as he brings his right foot forward and grips the ball, letting it roll to home plate. And that’s exactly what happened at a Cubs game at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.
“I went over to the catcher and said, ‘Can I have that ball? Can we please do that again?’” he recounted.
When he returned to the mound to pitch he found redemption, noting, “It wasn’t quite a strike, but it was respectable.”
And he’s certainly not dropping the ball now. Willis is proud of his 31 mph “fastball” and his near-homerun achievement – with only the LA Angels left to scratch off his to-do list.
As for pitching at Yankee Stadium, Willis, who is 5-feet tall, is hoping to catch the eye of Yankee captain Aaron Judge. “He’s like 18 feet tall. It would be great to get a picture of us side-by-side,” Willis said.
At the very least, he’ll walk away with some mementos:
“I keep every ball,” he said, sometimes signed by the pitcher, adding that he’ll also walk out with a team baseball cap.
“With my Yankees cap, I’ll go home with the hat and the ball and a secret nobody knows about,” he said. “I take a little bit of dirt and keep it in a bag from every field. It’s pretty cool.”
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