For his entire life, Landis Sims has been a baseball fan. He loves the game so much, he just had to play it.
And he wasn’t going to let some little detail like not having hands or feet get in the way of that.
“Really since birth, almost. It’s just always been like, if somebody tells me I can’t do something I say just watch me go do it,” says Landis.
Get San Diego local news, weather forecasts, sports and lifestyle stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC San Diego newsletters.
Landis was born without hands or most of his legs. Early on he adopted that mantra “Just watch me.”
“If anybody doubts me it just gives me the motivation to work harder and prove to them I’m just like anybody else,” says Landis. “I might have to put in a little extra work but I can do the same things they can.”
Landis learned how to throw with his glove and swing the bat with a special grip. A lifelong Yankees fan, he got to take batting practice at Yankee Stadium and announce a pick at the MLB Draft.
Landis made his Little League All-Star team but when the San Diego-based Challenged Athletes Foundation got involved, his baseball career really took off. Landis is a 2nd baseman so they got him brand new prosthetics, improving his lateral quickness enough that now, at age 15, Landis is taking another major step.
In March he’s trying out for his high school baseball team.
“I’m going to my hitting practices once a week and doing the homework for that. And then I’ve been working a lot on footwork and fielding and how to use what I have to put more power into my throws and be smarter with the way I play; be more efficient.”
That’s where the story comes back to San Diego. Padres starting pitcher Joe Musgrove, a Grossmont High School alum, is friends with documentary filmmaker Eric Cochran, who’s doing a feature on Landis.
“He hit me up and said hey, I’ve got this kid that I think you’d love to meet and I’d love for you to just talk to him,” says Musgrove. “I think your mentality and the way you approach life and approach the game would really rub off on him in a good way.”
So, Joe and his godfather, St. Katherine University pitching coach Dom Johnson, got with Landis for some intense instruction.
“We worked all the things that a 2nd baseman at the high school level would need to know,” says Musgrove. “How to turn double plays, proper footwork.”
Landis and his unmatched work ethic soaked up every last word.
“It was crazy. It was great,” says Landis. “It was Joe and Dom that really fixed my footwork and helped me with turning double plays and being able to throw more efficiently and throw harder. It was really helpful. It just kind of clicked for me like, this makes a lot of sense.”
Landis also plays basketball, but it’s baseball that’s always been his favorite. He relishes all the challenges the game has to offer.
“I think it’s more mentally challenging for he sometimes than it is physically challenging for me. There are always different situations, every pitch, every play, every batter there’s a new situation so mentally knowing what I have to do is a lot of fun. It’s kind of difficult sometimes but I like that,” says Landis.
“That kid is the best possible example of someone who has mental toughness and fortitude to be able to get over any obstacle,” says Musgrove. “He’s faced so many different things and issues in his life and he’s found ways to make them work. He just adapts to whatever situation he’s in. I feel like I took more away from that day than he did. I left there feeling like a different person.”
Landis wants to play college baseball. But first, there’s something else to take care of.
“Right now, the biggest goal would be to win a state championship. That’s our biggest goal right now.”
So, congrats to South Central High School on the state title. Because history tells us, if Landis Sims puts his mind to something, there’s nothing that’s going to keep it from happening.