The power of inspiration that sports can elicit is often magical. The outlet that athletics provides, for those who have endured hardships during their lives, is one of the many reasons why sports play such an important role in our society. This especially holds true with our beloved game of baseball.
The incredible journey of Warwick Little Leaguer, Braylon O'Neill, tells a touching story of motivation, courage, and determination.
O'Neill was born with a congenital defect that left him with club feet, which forced doctors to amputate his legs, just below the knee, before his first birthday.
Given his seemingly dire prognosis, he never let his situation define who he was, or what he could become.
In 2012, at just two years old, Braylon was kicking around a soccer ball. In 2015, at five years of age, Braylon appeared in a Microsoft Super Bowl commercial; walking, running, playing tennis, and even rounding the bases after barreling a baseball off the screen.
Braylon's optimism and intrinsic love of athletics propelled him to continue playing baseball.
Now, at nine years old, Braylon is playing in the local Warwick Township Baseball program where he is competing in an older age group of 10 and 11 year olds. Emblematic of the way Braylon overcame his defect to play sports, O'Neill is equivocally proving doubters wrong by excelling against older opponents.
"I like going against older kids" O'Neill told WPRI's Walt Buteau.
O'Neill, as he continues to excel, is even drawing comparisons, from his coach, to MLB greats such as Wade Boggs because of his exceptional hitting and fielding abilities.
Even with all he has accomplished, O'Neill still has his people who doubt him, but his passion and courageous work ethic has continuously proven those skeptics wrong. O'Neill likes the pressure of tuning out the cynics, and his accomplishments show how he has done just that.
As O'Neill told Buteau, "I like having pressure on me. I like proving myself."
This past Sunday, June 24th, the Pawtucket Red Sox were honored to have Braylon O'Neill throw out the first pitch in before their weekend finale against the Syracuse Chiefs.
Following Braylon's electric first pitch fastball, which he threw for a strike, the stadium erupted in applause, whistles, and cheers in support of him. After the applause started to settle down, Pawtucket Red Sox Pitcher Marcus Walden, who caught the first pitch, met him at the mound.
Walden, touched by Braylon's story, proceeded to give O'Neill one of his game gloves as a show of appreciation for what Braylon has been through and the challenges he has overcome.
Braylon's story sends a great message to all those who have ever encountered doubt or skepticism, and those who have been forced to overcome conditions beyond their control.
On Sunday, Braylon fueled the Paw Sox to an 8-1 series clinching victory against the Chiefs.
At just nine years of age, with what he has accomplished already, the sky is the limit for Braylon O'Neill.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.