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Legless high school pitcher strikes out at being cut from team

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Legless pitcher cut from team
  • 16-year-old Anthony Burruto throws an 80 mph fastball
  • "The coach gave me the excuse that I can't cover bunts," Burruto says
  • "Oh, my God! Are you serious?"

Orlando (CNN) -- A high school sophomore in Orlando who throws a mean fastball but was cut from his baseball team because he's not so good at fielding bunts said Tuesday that his rejection was off-base.

"I went there and tried out and the coach gave me the excuse that I can't cover bunts," 16-year-old Anthony Burruto told HLN's "Prime News" about his coach's decision at Dr. Phillips High School. "Bunts wasn't even part of the tryout."

And Burruto's 80-mph fastball just wasn't enough, apparently.

Oh, there's another thing about Burruto that may -- or may not -- have anything to do with this story. Life threw him a curve that other athletes at the school have not had to contend with: He has no legs. Burruto launches his pitches from atop prostheses. But the birth defect never deterred him from pursuing the sport: He has played baseball since he was 8, playing two seasons in the fall league and one on the junior varsity team.

"They know what he's got," Burruto's mother Diane said about the school's coaches. "He's a very good athlete, very good pitcher. He handles his own out there."

She said her son worked hard to hone his skills. "Not to say other kids out there don't work hard, but Anthony has to work harder. He loves the game of baseball."

She added, "He became skilled at it, he excelled at it, and had to overcome obstacles, obviously, to get there. Nothing can stop him. That's the way I raised him. You don't have a disability. You want to do something? Go out and try to do it."

In a written statement, a spokesman for the Orange County Public Schools said Burruto was treated like any other player. "Anthony was given the same opportunity as all other students to try out for the Dr. Phillips High School baseball teams," wrote Dylan Thomas. "He was among 63 student athletes who were evaluated for a position on either the varsity or junior varsity squads. With only 40 roster spots, Anthony and 22 other students did not make either team. As a sophomore, Anthony has the chance to vie for a position on a school team again next year and we hope he will."

But Burruto said he was not sure he would, particularly if the coach who cut him keeps his job. "I would never play for him again," Burruto said. "He basically told me that I'm not going to make the team ever again because I can't field the bunts, which isn't true. I can field bunts -- just a little slower than the average person."

Burruto said his former teammates have been incredulous when they learned he has been cut. "Their reaction is, 'Oh, my God! Are you serious? There's no way! How can you get cut?' They're livid about it."