2010 Chillicothe graduate Nathan Winston will be heading to St. Paul, Minnesota in late April to fulfill a childhood dream of playing professional baseball for the St. Paul Saints of the American Association.
Those who have watched Winston grow up in Chillicothe, playing at Chillicothe Youth Baseball League at Diamond #1 in the city park or even on the Cavalier Baseball teams have noticed something peculiar about him… he plays wearing a prosthetic leg, something he’s been doing since he was a toddler.
“I was born without a hip bone, which caused my left leg to grow slower than my right” said Winston. So, the leg was amputated when Winston was four. “I never knew anything else, so it’s normal to me.”
He says it’s common for onlookers to tell him he’s an inspiration to them. But laughingly, Winston was oblivious to their intent “and I was like, ‘Alright’, but as I got older, my mom was drilling it into my head, ‘Think about it’… and then it started making sense.”
While baseball has been a love for Winston, he managed to convince his mother to let him try other sports. He played organized football for the first time in 8th grade and again as a freshman at CHS. “I mostly played defensive end.” But on a lark, after the Cavs had scored a touchdown, Coach Steve Semancik put him in on a 2-point conversion… with plans to give Winston the ball. Once taking the handoff, made it across the goal line. “It was pretty nice.”
Winston also played basketball up through junior varsity and then helped manage the varsity Cavaliers when determined his basketball days were done.
Baseball however, was another story. It was him and the batter. Finding his catcher’s target and getting back to the dugout.
Winston says it most challenging for the coaches to know how to help him make adjustments with his mechanics. “It’s different” said Winston “Coaches didn’t really know what to do to help me. So, I pretty much had to work on it myself… learn how to move different ways, how to get off the mound faster, throw the ball and use my lower body.”
During his high school days, Goodwill Industries of South Central Ohio hosted a young motivational speaker for its annual banquet. Anthony Burroto, who had lost both legs, but managed to play baseball wearing prostheses. Burroto drew national attention when he was cut by his team despite have all the necessary tools to perform. When he heard Winston was getting a chance to play professionally, he reached out to give him encouragement. “When he was here, I met him in the park… we found each other on Facebook, talked a couple times and he messaged me when he found out to congratulate me.”
This May, when the Saints take the field, Winston will be working out of the bullpen. How did the opportunity come about?
“I went to a Florida Minor League Camp in February... last year I moved to Cincinnati and tried out for a semi-pro team. I talked to an agent, he told me to make a video of me pitching, and I sent it to him and the right person got it and invited me to Florida for the tryout camp.”
He’s developed an arsenal of pitches, but likes his slider best. “I have a fast ball, two seam and four seam, slider, curve ball and a change up.” But when things get tough, he goes for the slider “It’s my go to”.
The move to Minnesota in a few weeks is a big one, just the next chapter in a story filled with overcoming challenges. “It’s pretty big… it’s a dream. I’ve been dreaming about it quite a while and to see it actually coming true, I’m still pretty amazed by it, but it’s a good feeling.”
To learn more about the Saints, visit www.saintsbaseball.com.
Hear Dan Ramey's interview with Nathan Winston