Eighteen years ago, Mark Andersen lost both of his legs in a boating accident. On Monday, the lifelong baseball fan will walk to the mound and throw out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium.
Andersen grew up attending Dodgers games with his father and has remained a dedicated fan. A new pair of prosthetic legs further cemented the Santa Maria man’s devotion to the team.
The use of prosthetics does not always allow for comfort. Stationary prosthetic feet have made it difficult for Andersen to walk and run. But over time, the prosthetics have gotten better. When prosthetics company Ottobock recently asked whether he’d try a new prosthetic foot — one that connects to a smartphone and moves heel-to-toe when walking — Andersen said yes.
Wrapped in Dodger blue and covered in the logo of his favorite baseball team, the prosthetic legs he was to be outfitted with sparked an idea. Working with Andersen’s daughter Megan Andersen, Keith Severson, the director of patient care and support at Achilles Prosthetics and Orthotics, reached out to the Dodgers on social media.
“I just had a hope that maybe his family could get a chance to see him honored in the midst of his beloved Dodgers and surprise him with what he would feel is an honor of a lifetime,” Severson told the Santa Barbara Noozhawk.
The day Andersen was scheduled to receive what he believed was an adjustment on his new prosthetics, the double amputee instead received a plaque and a letter from the Dodgers informing him that he would throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Dodgers-Atlanta Braves game on Monday. His daughter said he was in shock.
“He was like: ‘No way. There’s no way. Why would they choose me?’ He doesn’t realize how important his journey is to people,” she said.
“My mind went blank,” Andersen said.
Since the boating accident, Andersen has remained active. Despite some discomfort with previous prosthetics, he walks and has coached Little League. He even bought a boat in spite of his past bad experience.
“It’s always been tough for me to be an inspiration, but it kind of works,” Andersen told the Santa Maria Times. “When I became an amputee, I realized how many other people have to go through this. So if I can inspire them to show them that life goes on, that you can really go back to being a normal person, then I am happy to do that.”
Andersen’s first pitch is a gift from the Dodgers’ Blue Wish program, which typically grants wishes to children and adults facing life-threatening illnesses.
As for his expectations for the game, Andersen hopes he won’t bounce the ball. Mostly, he’s planning to savor the time on the field.