Stepping up to the plate

8:46 PM, May 13, 2011   |    comments
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Ryan Greaser doesn't remember being right-handed. He doesn't remember what it was like to use the fingers on his right hand to pick up a penny or a dime. What he does remember is always loving the game of baseball.

Ever since Ryan was able to walk, he had a baseball or bat in his hand. He was such an active child, his parents noticed instantly when he was clutching one arm close to his chest. Ryan was about 15 months old at the time, and they could only assume he had suffered an injury.

Rob and Jamie Greaser took Ryan to the doctor to find out what was going on.

"The doctor went and got another doctor and brought him in, and you could tell they were baffled by what they were seeing," Jamie said. "They decided to put a cast on Ryan, in case he dislocated an elbow. After a couple of weeks, the Greasers were sent to a surgeon and a physical therapist."

It was the physical therapist who suggested Ryan's problem might be neurological. The next day, the Greasers were at The Children's Hospital, where doctors told them Ryan either suffered a stroke or had a brain tumor. Tests soon discovered it was a stroke.

While no one can say for certain what caused his stroke, the impact was obvious. The right side of Ryan's body was weakened. He could not use the fingers on his right hand to pick up small items. His face drooped slightly, his right arm did not extend fully and neither did his right leg. Surgery was done on his Achilles tendon to help stretch his leg, and he underwent physical therapy.

Ryan learned to adapt quickly, building up the strength in his left arm and leg to overcome the limitations on the right side. He played several sports including football, soccer, baseball and even wrestling. Baseball was his favorite.

In order to play the game he loved so much, Ryan had to learn how to move quickly: catching with his left hand, removing his glove, tucking it under his arm and then throwing with his left hand. It's a move that often catches the eye of umpires and opponents.

"Umpires have actually stopped the game sometimes. They'll walk out to first base and say 'What are you doing?' And he'll explain and they're like 'Wow, that's really cool,'" Jamie said.

Ryan doesn't think what he does is that unusual, and he's never questioned what he can or cannot do on the field. When he played Little League, he decided to try pitching and found out he's pretty good. While on the mound, he discovered he can use his right hand fairly well by placing his left hand behind the glove to catch the ball thrown back from the catcher.

Now 15 years old, Ryan is playing on the freshman team for Ralston Valley High School in Arvada. Over the years, he's become accustomed to hearing comments from his opponents or strangers.

"I've gotten comments before like 'Oh did he forget his glove' or 'Does he do that because he wants attention?' I just ignore that if it's the other team because I don't listen to anyone when I'm pitching, not even my parents," he said.

The head coach of RV is thrilled to have Ryan on the team.

"Number one, he's talented, but he brings an inspiration too," Shane Freehling said. "Other kids that are whining and crying about my arm hurts, or this or that, they look at a kid like that that's working his tail off in the cages and in the bull pens. I think it just elevates the playing level of everyone around him."

Ryan says he feels amazing and on top of the world when he's on the baseball field with his team. The Mustangs freshman team finished with a 15-3 record, and are headed to the league playoffs this weekend.

(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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