Jay Shakur is a senior at Evans High School in Evans, Georgia. He lost his left arm when he was young, and has pursued and succeeded in the great game of baseball since. He can be found on Instagram @jay_shakur27. The interview was conducted by Matt Leonardo, who can be found on Instagram @leonardo_edits.
Matt Leonardo: So first off, were you born with one arm?
Jay Shakur: No I was not born with one arm. I lost my arm on November 22nd when I was a year old. A week after my birthday. I had strep throat and chicken [pox]. My chicken poxs got infected and combined with my strep throat and formed and flesh eating disease. They only thing the doctors could do to stop the infection was to amputate my arm above my elbow.
ML: Wow. How unfortunate. So when did you first fall in love with baseball?
JS: Well let’s see. I was 5 years old when my dad introduce me [to] it. I first picked up a glove, a bat, and a ball and everything just came natural to me. It was like I was born to lose my arm and become a good baseball player with one arm. But the the minute I picked up that glove I knew I would be able to play like everybody else and still compete with other great talented ball players. Everything just flowed together and once I found out I can play this game easily I just fell in love with it. So from then on out I’ve been striving for greatness in this sport.
ML: How do you field with only one arm?
JS: Well just saying I play the outfield. And the outfield gives me more time to get my glove off to throw the ball. In the outfield you know you have to run up on the ball when it is in the air. And as I am running with the ball in my glove I quickly put the glove under my left armpit and I let the ball drop in my hand as I am in my the throwing form and by the time I am in my throwing stride the ball is ready to be thrown wherever it needs to be thrown.
ML: Now when you were a kid, at what point did you finally start to make consistent contact at the plate with one hand?
JS: Let’s see. I started making good contact when I started coach pitch and then the more pitches I faced and the more experience I got at the plate I just become a better batter. Now I make decent contact depends on the kind of game I’m having. I always have game where I have a hit. Always.
ML: Can you hit off-speed as well?
JS: Of course I can hit anything. I have good bat speed. I’m one of those batter that capitalizes off that first pitch strike so I don’t get behind in the count.
ML: Did you ever look up to Jim Abbott as a kid, the one handed pitcher that played for the Angels?
JS: [Yes] I did. My favorite team is the angels. Not because of him but because I used to live in California. One day I saw a video of Jim Abbott that my dad showed me. After I saw him play I developed the techniques that he did. And from that point on I practiced and practiced at what he did and got better. And my dad was always there beside me supporting me in baseball. He always showed up to all my games and he gave me tips on how to improve my game. From that point on my dad and Jim Abbott inspired me to strive for greatness in the sport of baseball.
ML: Are you a starter on your high school team?
JS: I know this may be a shocker. But to be honest I have never made a high school team yet. But that is why I played summer ball for my high school. So I can show the coaches hey I am good. That I have the ability to play on the team. I tried and tried and didn’t make it. But when I played summer ball the coaches said that they were impressed. I’m very fast and they were impressed on how I can switch hit. I started for summer the season ball season. Come January we will see if my hard work In the summer payed off. I’m sure it will.
ML: I hope it does. Now I have seen you switch hit between pictures and videos on your Instagram. Which side of the plate is easier for you?
JS: Batting righty is better. I produce more on that side. My vision at the plate is not as good on the left side as it is on the right side.
ML: So who works with you the most to improve your game?
JS: My good buddies on the baseball team. They coach me in ways that improves my game. I also help myself to improve I’m constantly in the cages hitting if the tee to improve my swing. I also watch the pros play to see how they play to improve my game as well.
ML: Who’s your favorite major leaguer to watch right now to learn from?
JS: Mike Trout of course. He is a very good outfielder and his batting mechanics are really good.
ML: How do you deal with people that you maybe met that doubted you to be able to play baseball?
JS: It just put them behind me and strive harder so one day they can watch me on tv and remember what they said to me and dang I wish I would have never said that.
ML: What kind of baseball dreams or goals do you have?
JS: My dream is that I would like to make the bigs but really I just want a lot of people to notice me and see me play. I just want colleges coaches to see me play. I just want to be seen in a big way.
ML: Do you plan on looking to go to certain colleges and to play baseball?
JS: Not really. I would only do that if I know colleges are looking at me because of baseball. I would love to play baseball in college.
ML: You are a great inspiration to many young people who love baseball. Thank you for the time and good luck with your future baseball.
JS: Thanks you.