Chris Murphy, Published July 31 2013
Hawley teen adapts despite being born without left hand
“People started asking me what happened,” Hanson – a soon-to-be Hawley High School junior – said. “I had to explain it. That’s when I figured out I wasn’t quite as normal as everyone else.”
Normal to Hanson is only having his right hand, as he was born without a left hand.
Normal for Hanson is learning to bounce a basketball off the stub on his left arm where his hand would be in order to keep his dribble.
Normal for Hanson is learning to haul in passes with his right arm as a wide receiver or tuck the ball in his armpit with just one hand as a running back, as he did last season for the junior varsity Hawley football team.
Normal for Hanson is fielding a ball with his glove on his right hand, transferring the ball into his right hand – while balancing the glove where his left hand would be – and making a throw in baseball.
Normal is putting on a prosthetic arm with a grip at the end of it to hold a bat and tossing the bat to the side with the prosthetic arm still connected to it when running to first.
Abnormal to everyone else is how he does it.
“He’s about as good-natured a kid as you’re going to find,” said Hawley American Legion baseball coach Tim Pederson, who coached Hanson in eighth grade for basketball and ninth grade for football. “He has refused to let it limit whatever he does. He’s nothing short of amazing.”
Hanson is batting .444 with 11 stolen bases, a homer and 30 RBIs for Hawley, which is headed to the Minnesota Division II state tournament Friday in Bird Island.
Oh, and he pitches. He’s 7-2 with a 2.81 ERA and 30 strikeouts on the mound.
Even more amazing is the sense of humor Hanson has toward his birth defect. He laughs at his “stub daddy” nickname and uses it as his Twitter handle. He talks about his mom jokingly saying in the crowd at baseball games, “Oh, there goes another arm,” when he tosses his bat to the side with his prosthetic arm still connect.
He can’t help but smirk when talking about the reactions of fans unaware of his situation looking on horrified as he seemingly rips off his left arm in order to run to first base.
“Cartwheels,” Hanson said when asked what’s the most difficult thing to do that most people take for granted.
“I just did my own thing and had to find out things on my own and do stuff my own way,” Hanson said. “It’s hard to teach someone to do things with one hand when you’re used to doing things with two. I just had to keep practicing and working at it, and now it’s just muscle memory.”
There’s more to it than just muscle memory.
“Lots of kids practice, lots of kids lift weights and lots of kids have a lot of natural talent,” Pederson said. “He has that thing where most of us would give up, but he doesn’t. He’s never let his hand be the difference between him succeeding and failing. He’s always thought, ‘I can succeed. I just need to work a little bit harder to do it.’”
Hanson hopes to play college baseball somewhere after high school. At this point, it’s hard to doubt him.
“I don’t know where yet, but college baseball is what I really want to do,” Hanson said. “If it goes that far, it would be great.”
Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548