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Special delivery: Coppin State's flourishing freshman

Posted at 6:02 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 18:02:07-05

BALTIMORE, Md. — Coppin State has a new left-handed star pitcher on the mound.

“This kid has been amazing,” said Eagles Head Coach Sherman Reed.

“He has no fear,” added Eagles senior pitcher Aaron Rea.

He has been obsessed with baseball ever since he can remember. But playing the game he loves isn’t that easy for Timmy Ruffino.

“Ever since I was four I kind of started falling in love with the game,” he said. “It’s a lot of work. It’s a lot more work than the average person.”

That’s because he has always been at a disadvantage.

“Honestly it never really occurred to me when I was younger that I had one hand. I wouldn’t sit there and be like, ‘Oh my god I have one hand. I can’t do this’,” he said.

Ruffino is the Eagles’ one-handed pitcher. He was born with an underdeveloped right hand.

He has two appearances so far this season. Both were in relief.

Of course he’s an excellent pitcher. He can also field and swing the bat pretty well.

“I make it look like it’s easy, like it’s an every day thing, but it’s tough. Especially being a little kid trying to figure out how to tie your shoes, which I couldn’t do until I was 12 years old,” he said.

He credits his parents for always emphasizing that he is just like everybody else.

"They weren’t like, ‘Hey you do this this way because of your hand’. It was more like they let me figure out how I was going to do something.”

Like develop into a Division I college pitcher.

On the field Ruffino has overcome his disability and the taunts that come with it.

“Sometimes I was thinking about giving up. I was like, ‘This is too hard. I don’t know if I’m ever going to do it.’”

Off of the diamond he learned perseverance and determination at an early age. He grew up 20 minutes outside of New Orleans. His family survived the devastation of Hurricane Katrina when he was four years old.

“We had, I think my parents were saying, about seven feet of water for a good couple weeks. It ruined the whole house. We lost everything,” he said.

But he gained a passion for life, family and baseball. Ruffino wants to be the next one-handed player at the highest level, just like his idol Jim Abbott. There’s no doubt he’s already an idol to so many.

“Like any little kid, they want to reach the Major Leagues. But if I don’t I know that I’ve left an impact on a lot of people and a lot of kids who maybe have the same disability, maybe just have two hands,” he said. “Knowing that if this is my last four years of baseball, I know I’ve impacted a lot of people, a lot of parents, a lot of families to show that you can do anything you put your mind to.”

Ruffino earned his first career win on Tuesday during an 11-1 victory at Richmond. He pitched in relief. It was also Coppin’s first win of the season.

Follow Shawn Stepner on Twitter @StepnerWMAR and Facebook