By DENNIS WASZAK Jr., AP Sports Writer
SECAUCUS, N.J. (AP) — Luke Terry has been inspiring friends and family his entire young life.
The one-armed high school catcher from Tennessee can now add a few dozen former and future major league ballplayers to the list.
The 16-year-old Terry had his right arm amputated when he was only 19 months old after he contracted E. coli. That hasn’t prevented him from playing ball, though, and on Monday night the lifelong Braves fan got the opportunity to announce Atlanta’s first-round draft pick: Florida high school pitcher Carter Stewart.
“This was awesome,” said Terry, decked out in a white Braves jersey. “I can’t put it into words.”
When Commissioner Rob Manfred invited the special guest up to the podium at MLB Network studios, the dozens of big leaguers representing their former teams — the likes of which included Bo Jackson, Andre Dawson, Dale Murphy and Rollie Fingers — gave Terry a loud standing ovation.
“It was unbelievable to stand up there and get applause from everybody,” Terry said with a big smile.
Terry recently finished his freshman year at Cornersville High School, where he played catcher and helped his baseball team to a 17-12 record this past season.
Yes, with just one arm.
Terry catches the baseball with his mitted left hand, and throws by tapping the ball up with the glove — which he quickly flips off — and catches it in his left hand.
Videos posted on social media of Terry catching and hitting have gone viral. He has simply refused to let his physical condition ever keep him from achieving his dreams.
“He doesn’t give up,” his mother Dana said. “He doesn’t see himself different than anybody else. He works just as hard as anybody else to earn his spot.”
Terry threw out a ceremonial first pitch at a Braves home game last June, and also caught a first pitch from Hall of Famer Jim Palmer at an Orioles game last season.
“It’s unreal to see how people can see an inspiration over just me going out there and playing ball,” Terry said. “I’m not really ever just thinking about it.”
His big draft day moment came as a total surprise, though. The Braves called his mother Saturday night and asked if it would be OK for her son — whose favorite player is shortstop Dansby Swanson — to fly up to New Jersey and make the team’s pick in person.
“I said, yes, and they wanted me to keep it a secret,” Dana Terry said. “On Sunday night, we found (the announcement) on Facebook, and I jumped up and showed it to him on the phone and he just started screaming.”
Added Luke: “I was just shocked — it was unreal that I’d actually be able to be up there and you’d get to see it on TV.”
The family spent the day touring New York, including checking out Yankee Stadium, before heading to the draft site to prepare for his big moment.
After Luke announced the No. 8 overall pick, Stewart slipped on a Braves jersey of his own and the two shook hands and posed for pictures at the podium along with Manfred. Later in the draft, Stewart invited Terry to sit and chat with him in a makeshift dugout in the studio where all the draft prospects wait to hear their names called.
“It was awesome,” Dana Terry said. “And he’s gotten to know these boys today, so that made it even better to know one of them. I’m so proud of him.”
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