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Cerebral palsy can't keep Tarpon Springs teen off baseball field

CLEARWATER — It's what happens after Austin Ordner catches the ball that's amazing.

With a motion that's as natural as breathing, Austin slides the glove off his left hand and cradles it between his right forearm and his abdomen.

The 17-year-old Tarpon Springs High sophomore then throws the ball with the same left hand that just had a glove on it. With the ball gone, Austin immediately puts the glove back on his left hand.

Born with cerebral palsy, Austin doesn't have the use of his right side and his right leg is turned inward. But that hasn't stopped him from playing.

"Even though you have some kind of disability, you still can try sports," Austin said Wednesday before his game. "It really doesn't matter, as long as you give an effort and try. You possibly can do whatever you want to do."

Austin plays baseball with Winning Inning Baseball Academy on Monday and Wednesday nights. The program is a developmental and instructional league that helps young baseball players improve their skills. Because there is no junior varsity baseball in Pinellas County, many players, particularly high school freshmen and sophomores, turn to Winning Inning for improvement.

Austin had never played baseball before until last season when friends at Tarpon Springs High persuaded him to try out for the varsity team. He didn't make it.

"At first I didn't want to play at all because I've never played in my life," Austin recalled. "But then I went out and actually did quite well for my first time. That's when I started practicing almost every night for three or four hours."

Austin tried out again this season, and again he didn't make the roster. But he stays connected as a manager.

And at Winning Inning, he continues to hone his game. Wednesday, he played first base. He also can play outfield and is getting better with pitching, he said.

"This is a great league," said Randy Ordner, Austin's grandfather. "It's a neat thing because all the kids get to play, and he's learning to play the game and he's getting better."

Stacey Ordner was beaming as she watched her son run from first base to the dugout or swing with all he can in an attempt to connect with a fastball across the plate.

She said her son has always been an overachiever and has never let anything hold him back. But playing baseball is different, she said. It's all Austin talks about, all he writes his school reports about, Stacey Ordner said.

"The biggest thing is he's a part of the team and has a chance to be a leader," Ordner, 34, said. "He's never really been a part of a team like this before, and now he's just one of the guys."

Tim Dublino, the team's coach, said it's easy to use Austin as an inspiration because he works so hard.

"Some other kids may be a little more talented, but it's easy to use Austin as a role model to the other kids who might think they have it rough," Dublino, 44, said. "He's a great kid and the kids love him on the team, and it's actually been very good."

For Austin, life is good, especially when he's holding down first base.

"Its been rough at times," Austin said. "But overall, it's been okay."

Demorris A. Lee can be reached at dalee@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4174.

See for yourself

Cerebral palsy has not stopped 17-year-old Austin Ordner from playing the sport he loves. Watch him play baseball at video.tampabay.com.

Cerebral palsy can't keep Tarpon Springs teen off baseball field 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 9:28pm]
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