Dixie League All-Star pitcher Will Plowden, 8, threw a perfect game two weeks ago against the Baconton All-Stars — just the latest accomplishment for a kid who was born with bilateral clubfeet, a birth defect that left his parents unsure if he would ever walk. (email@example.com)
ALBANY — Sometimes, Will Plowden just wants to scream.
After eight surgeries in eight years because of a birth defect that gave him bilateral clubfeet, there have been moments when the pain has been unbearable.
But Will, an 8-year-old Dixie League baseball player from Albany, has never let his disability stop him, and two weeks ago he did the unthinkable in an All-Star game against Baconton — he threw a perfect game.
Or as he simply told his grandfather: “15 walked up to bat, and 15 went back into the dugout.”
From the moment Will was born, his mother, Alison Plowden, knew her son would have an uphill battle in life.
“When he was born the backs of his feet came up and touched his rear end,” Alison said. “He has had eight surgeries and has been in a wheelchair a good portion of his life. The fact that he can even walk is amazing, let alone run and play baseball.”
Will and the rest of his Dixie All-Star team, which is made up of 7- and 8-year-olds from Albany, play their first game in the state tournament in Leesburg at 10 a.m. today against Lawrenceville.
Albany is one of 16 teams playing for a state title — and it’s an opportunity that many thought Will would never to have.
When he was 2-weeks-old, both of his legs were put in casts up to his hip bones. Six weeks later, he had the first of his eight surgeries
It’s been a difficult fight for a kid who still wears a leg brace and orthopedic shoes to school.
“He’s been to a lot of Halloweens in a wheelchair,” his mom said. “His brothers would say things like, ‘Can we have some candy for my brother,’ and Will would be at the end of street in his wheelchair.”
He started playing baseball in kindergarten, but he has had challenges on the baseball field, too.
“What would be an (inside-the-park) home run for most kids would be a double for him, because that is as far as he can get,” Alison said.
But somehow in the midst of all the pain, an All-Star baseball player has emerged.
Will hit 10 home runs this season and threw two no-hitters — but he saved his finest moment for the final game of the Dixie League district tournament on June 11.
A few of Will’s teammates had control issues earlier in the tournament, so his coach, Jay Carpenter, stuck his most consistent pitcher on the mound.
“Going into the third game, I had made up my mind that I was tired of (the walks), and I was going to throw a pitcher who could throw strikes,” Carpenter said. “If they hit the ball, then we will just play defense.”
It turned out, Carpenter’s team didn’t need to play much defense at all.
Will struck 14 of the 15 batters out, and the only Baconton player to put the ball in play hit it right back to Will, who tossed it to first base for an easy out.
Will walks with a limp and has scars on both of his legs, but on June 11 the kid they call, “Willdabeast” was unstoppable.
That’s how he feels about every time he steps on the mound these days.
“His speed will always be an issue. “He won’t ever be one of the fastest kids on the planet, but the cool thing about that is you don’t need that in pitching,” Carpenter said.
Will says he has plenty of speed with his fastball.
“At the beginning of the season I was throwing it easy,” Will said. “Then one of my coaches said I needed to throw it hard. When he said that, I still threw strikes right down the plate, but they were like 12 mph faster.”
Will, who plays third or first base when he isn’t on the mound, is one of several pitchers on Albany’s roster who helped the team outscore their opponents, 29-2, in the district tournament.
There isn’t any national tournament for Will’s age group, so the state tournament is the end of the road for the Albany team.
But a trophy isn’t all that is awaiting Will and his teammates if they emerge as state champions.
“We get to shave (Carpenter’s) head,” Will said with a huge smile. “But I would rather dye it pink and make it an afro ... with polka dots on it. Purple polka dots.”