If you heard that a prized 16-year-old pitching prospect, featured in a story by ESPN, with a fastball clocked in the 80s and a “wicked” curve was cut by his high school team, you’d probably be surprised. If you also heard that that player was a double-amputee and has served as an inspiration and symbol of perseverance for disabled athletes across the United States, that surprise would quickly turn into disbelief.
Sophomore pitcher Anthony Burruto was cut by Dr. Phillips High School varsity baseball team, and his story, first reported by the Orlando Sentinel, is gaining national headlines.
As a child, Burruto was forced to have both his legs amputated due to a congenital condition that left him without a tibia and fibula in each leg. Growing up with two prosthetics, Burruto hasn’t ever felt like there’s something he can’t do, turning heads on the diamond since the age of 8.
But now, as a sophomore, Burruto’s dream of playing for his high school’s varsity team has come to an end — being cut on the second day of tryouts despite his pitching prowess.
“I had such a great tryout and my confidence level was high as it can be and I thought I was on the team, but then when my number wasn’t called, I was so disappointed,” Burruto recalled to ABC News. “My all-time dream was to play on the high school team.”
Dr. Phillips varsity coach Mike Bradley told the Orlando Sentinel that Burruto’s inability to properly field his position was the reason for the cut.
Burruto isn’t buying it, telling ABC News, “I’ve been playing for eight years, and that’s never been an issue.”
“He’s not looking at him like he’s an athlete,” Anthony’s mother, Diane Burruto, told the Orlando Sentinel. “He was looking at him like he’s a disabled person.”
The Orange County Public School District told ABC News in a statement that “Anthony was given the same opportunity as all other students.”
“With only 40 roster spots, Anthony and 22 other students did not make either team,” Dylan Thomas, director of public relations at Orange County Public Schools, said in a statement. “As a sophomore, Anthony has the chance to vie for a position on a school team again next year and we hope he will.”
Burruto was offered a place on the club, but as the team manager, he “wants to earn” a position on the team.
“I want him to say I’m good enough to play,” Burruto said.
“I don’t want him to give up on baseball, he’s too good of a player,” Diane told ABC, “and I don’t want to allow one ignorant person to stop him in his tracks.”