The first time Olympia High School baseball coach Derek Weldon heard about Michael Came, a pitcher for the Bears with a prosthetic right leg, he went to Came’s dad for advice, asking, delicately, how he could best accommodate him.
“I think I called it a ‘disability’ and he said, ‘We’ve never called it that,’” Weldon recalled. “He was quick to tell me: ‘He’s the same as every other kid.’”
Came, a junior and the team’s No. 1 pitcher, doesn’t spend much time thinking about his prosthetic leg. To him, it’s just something he’s always had.
He was born with a condition called fibular hemimelia and has lived with a prosthetic nearly his entire life. When he learned to walk, he learned with a prosthetic.
“It’s just a part of me,” he said. “I’ve always had it. On the street, people look at you a little differently. You get little kids asking you about it. But that’s just something I’ve grown up with it. I’ve learned ways to adapt. When I learned how to walk, I learned how to walk with a prosthetic. I didn’t walk any later than anyone else or anything else.”
And on the baseball diamond, the prosthetic hasn’t slowed the left-handed Came down in the slightest. On the mound, Came is 9-2 with a 2.99 earned run average and a 1.17 WHIP in 65.2 innings, with 48 strikeouts and 13 walks. At the plate, he’s hitting .230 this season with four doubles and 11 RBI.
He’s also a good golfer and owns a 3.96 grade point average.
“It’s really impressive,” said second baseman Kevin Flannery. “He doesn’t see it as a hindrance at all.”
Right fielder Clyde Twitty said Came has been an inspiration for all of the team.
“A guy with a prosthetic leg that comes out on the mound and at the plate can absolutely smash baseballs — it’s just super inspirational,” Twitty said. “He works super hard.”
Against Curtis in the Class 4A West Central III/Southwest bidistrict tournament, Came delivered the winning a hit, a walkoff double to seal the 7-6 win for the Bears and clinch a trip to the 4A state tournament.
“No one deserves that more,” Twitty said. “He’s had a huge postseason for us and he dealt all year on the mound.”
Came said that moment was a special one this season.
“I’ve struggled at the plate this year,” he said. “So just to have that happen and share it with my teammates, the dog pile was so much fun there at the end.”
Whatever challenges come with playing on a prosthetic leg, Came has adapted to long before high school baseball.
“Most things that would’ve been challenges, I learned to adapt to early on,” he said. “I’ve been playing baseball since I was 5 years old. I just do it subconsciously. If there’s something I do with my swing that isn’t sort of standard, I just learned to adapt to that at an early age.”
Mostly, Came’s mindset is an example for other players: Don’t make excuses.
“He does every bit of conditioning that we do, everything in the weight room,” Weldon said. “He’s in there squatting, doing plyometrics, deadlifting with us. Doing all the lifts that everyone else does.
“I just think it’s a great story. Sometimes you get dealt a tough hand. Sometimes things aren’t always the way they should be, or they’re not fair. But at the end of the day, it is what it is and it is what you make of it.”
Came’s play is just one of the many reasons the Olympia baseball team finds itself in the Class 4A state tournament semifinals, beginning with a semifinal game against Issaquah at 4 p.m. on Friday at GESA Stadium in Pasco.
The Bears pulled off a pair of upset wins to reach this point, knocking off Skyline, 8-6, in the opening round before shutting out title contender Federal Way in the quarterfinals, 8-0.
“We have nothing to lose,” Twitty said. “The only people that expected us to win that game were the 20 guys in the dugout and the coaching staff. None of the parents, no one else watching expected us to win. They have big name guys, future draft picks. We don’t have any of those big name guys. No one expected us to win.”
With no big-name star power, how does Olympia find itself as one of the last four teams standing?
“We have as much unity within a group as I’ve ever seen,” Weldon said. “These guys don’t mind working hard, they don’t mind being challenged. They’re very selfless. It’s not cliche, they believe in this program. It’s not about them. They all believe that. … Teams win championships, not players.”
Could Olympia capture the program’s first state baseball title this weekend? The Bears are just two wins away.
“Nobody expected us to be this far,” Came said. “We don’t have big-name talent. We work well as a team, play with a chip on our shoulder and have nothing to lose. I think we have to just keep doing the same thing.”