ERIC SONDHEIMER / ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Simi Valley's Cody Jones succeeds in baseball despite disability

Outfielder Jones, who can't use his left hand, finds a way to succeed by catching balls, removing his glove and throwing. 'When you're around him, you become better,' his coach says.

If Simi Valley High baseball players ever get lazy or start complaining about something innocuous, such as who has to rake the mound, they are usually snapped back to reality by simply watching the determination of senior outfielder Cody Jones.

"I have an inspirational story," Jones said, "Why not help out and brighten their day?"

To understand the commitment and love of baseball exhibited by Jones, you must go back to when he was 6 years old and trying out for a youth team.

He couldn't use his left hand because his left side had been weakened when oxygen was briefly cut off from his brain during a troubled childbirth, leaving him with cerebral palsy.


FOR THE RECORD:
Former Angel Jim Abbott was not a "one-armed" pitcher, as written below. Abbott was born without a right hand.

To make the team, he needed to figure out a way to throw a baseball.

"In kindergarten, I played tee ball," he said. "I didn't really throw, so I didn't really care I couldn't use my left hand. My mom and I were in the living room just thinking about it. We figured I could catch the ball with my right, take my glove off and throw the ball. We got the idea from Jim Abbott."

So there was Jones on the practice field wearing a left-handed glove on his right hand and taking it off trying to throw, similar to what Abbott, a one-armed left-handed pitcher with the Angels, used to do. But the public-address announcer started saying, "Can somebody please help the boy fix his glove?"

"I wanted to crawl into a hole," his mother, Candice, said.

Jones made the team. And, as the years went by, he continued to make teams by finding ways to succeed.

Batting is tough. He bats right-handed, but he can't follow through with both hands. He uses mostly his right hand to swing.

"We decided to raise him to work hard and not be set back by his disability," his mother said.

Now he's a member of the Simi Valley baseball team, catching fly balls with his left-handed glove in his right hand, then sending the glove flying while transferring the ball to his good hand and firing it toward the infield.

"It's flawless," Coach Matt La Belle said. "He does it routinely. It's not something he does for show. He does it for a need to be efficient and he does it very well."

Jones has been on varsity since his sophomore year. He's a backup outfielder who has a 3.9 grade-point average and is admired by teammates for his intelligence and dedication.

"He's the nicest person I've ever met," said sophomore Jake Whipple.

"He's incredibly smart," senior Mykel Davis said.

La Belle has come to rely on Jones as an unofficial assistant pitching coach. He helps with signs, charts pitches and comes up with ideas on strategy.

"I love Cody's work ethic and love his inspiration," he said. "Without him knowing it or even wanting it, when you're around him, you become better. You understand how hard he works. You understand what he's gone through to get himself where he is. You kind of wonder, 'Am I doing everything I can?' I think our guys think the same way. That pushes everybody to get better."

Jones wants to keep reminding everyone not to make final conclusions without offering a chance for someone to prove himself.

"You shouldn't judge people by how they look or if anything's different, because they might be able to show you up in the game of baseball," he said.

eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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