The 9-year-old shortstop gets ready to field the ball at Blue Valley Recreation Complex. He lowers his body, spreads his legs and watches the ball roll into his mitt. Quickly, he cradles the mitt under the opposite arm. He then throws the ball with the same hand that just had a glove on it.
The runner is safe. The crowd gasps.
“Daddy, did you see that? Did you see that? That little boy only has one hand,” says a boy on the opposing team.
“He’s like that pitcher from YouTube on the Yankees.”
Meet Anderson Becker, a young, modern-day version of MLB legend Jim Abbott.
Abbott, who pitched 10 years in the major leagues, including a no-hitter for the Yankees, famously fielded his position with the same hand he threw with, overcoming a birth defect that resulted in right hand with limited function.
While newcomers are in awe of the young Anderson — shortstop, pitcher and outfielder — for the boy’s head coach and legal guardian Alan Moore, it’s just another day at the ball park.
“Anderson told me one day he wanted to play baseball, and we discussed how we could make this work,” Moore said. “We teach him there’s nothing he can’t do. The only limits would be (those) he puts on himself. We refused to teach that negative lesson.”
Since December 2016, Moore and his wife, Emily, have cared for Anderson, as well as his 6-year-old brother, Philip Becker.
The Chinese-born brothers, who aren’t biologically related, were adopted by Kansas City resident Rebecca Becker.
Soon after she adopted them, Rebecca Becker suffered a stroke. Her speech was impaired and she had limited use of her right side. The brothers moved in temporarily with her close friends, who they affectionately call their grandparents. A mutual friend introduced everyone.
“My friend said, you have an opportunity to help two children who really need it,” Emily Moore said recently, tears in her eyes. “There’s a reason we were brought into this.”
For the Becker brothers, it was an adjustment.
Philip Becker quietly said he was very sad when he was told he would leave the only family he knew.
“I was worried my mom would die,” he said quietly, nestled up against Emily on the family couch.
Over the next few months the brothers stayed with the Moores on weekends before it became permanent. All the while, the Moores stayed in close contact with Rebecca Becker. They are now in the process of readopting the boys openly, hoping for finalization in the next six months.
“We think that the right thing is to continue to have Rebecca be a part of their lives,” Alan said, adding that Rebecca Becker wants to fulfill her dream of watching them become young men. “It’s something that is pretty important to us.”
Anderson and Philip may share no bloodline, but many confuse them for twins. Both wear thick horn-rimmed glasses. Both have thick black hair and infectious smiles. Both are soft spoken. And both have what anyone outside the Moore family might consider limitations with their hands.
As a result of the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, the fingers of Anderson Becker, a fourth-grader at Cedar Hill Elementary School in Overland Park, did not fully develop, leaving him with two of five fingers.
Phillip has a congenital stump from birth that resulted in his left hand having four very small unusable fingers.
“Just because you don’t have 10 fingers, you have seven or have five, you can be successful. We let nothing hold us back,” Alan Moore told Anderson on a recent sunny afternoon at their home in Stilwell. “We figure it out, don’t we?”
Likewise, Emily calls Philip’s hand the “magic fingers,” and Anderson’s the “magic hand.”
While the community has welcomed the Becker brothers with open arms, some kids meeting Anderson for the first time naturally have questions.
“I just say, ‘That’s how God made me,’ when they ask what happened,” Philip Becker says, grinning, revealing an endearing gap between his front teeth.
Anderson’s favorite Royals player is Eric Hosmer, “because he’s cool,” even though Hosmer is no longer with the Royals. Philip nods in agreement.
On a recent afternoon, in the family’s backyard, the boys swing on playground equipment, both trying to outdo the other with flips on the low bars.
“I can do it, too,” Philip says, trying to keep up with his older brother unsuccessfully.
Alan Moore, who coaches the Blue Valley Panthers, demonstrated a hitting device he built for Anderson to help develop his skills. Anderson ferociously attacks the ball with every swing.
“It’s the saddest and the most beautiful story you will ever hear,” said Denise Childers, a close friend of Rebecca Becker.
“I really believe Rebecca was put on earth to rescue Anderson and Philip. Emily and Alan were put on earth to raise them. I really think they will make a movie.”