Nathan Briggs: the Man, the Myth, the Pitcher

When you think of Granite City baseball, what comes to mind? Jake Depew? Chad Spanberger? Some of you aren’t even aware that we have a baseball team. If you look deeper into Granite City baseball there’s a story that has yet to be told.

Nathan Briggs, a former pitcher for Granite City, is just like any other high school pitcher. He’s had his rough days and he’s had his days that were spot on. He plays the game with all his heart just like everyone else. He’s also a fantastic bowler competing in national tournaments. Except there’s one thing that separates Nathan from most players—he has Cerebral Palsy in his right arm.

They would always tell me I had plenty of heart, but no skill. It was a struggle at first, not just for me but my whole family. I think that struggle helped me be a better ball player and a better person.”

— Nathan Briggs

Cerebral Palsy is a group of disorders that can involve brain and nervous system functions, particularly movement. In Nathan’s case his right hand and arm have severely restricted movement. Nathan was born with Cerebral Palsy and had to have one surgery when he was four, but he didn’t let this set him back.

When Nathan turned eight he developed an interest in baseball, but how would a child with Cerebral Palsy in his right arm ever be able to play the game of baseball? Well, it’s not impossible. Former major league pitcher Jim Abbott played major league ball with the New York Yankees and only had one hand. Nathan’s father Chris sought the opportunity to teach Nathan how to pitch using the same style that Abbott used.

Nathan’s dad played a big part in Nathan’s baseball career, motivating him and often coaching him. It took Nathan nearly two years to learn this style of pitching. Nathan would take a right hander’s baseball glove and place the palm of the glove over his right hand, then after he pitched the ball he would quickly transfer the glove to the other hand and wear it normally. Because of his “disability” Nathan was often rejected by teams as a kid. “They would always tell me I had plenty of heart, but no skill. It was a struggle at first, not just for me but my whole family. I think that struggle helped me be a better ball player and a better person.”

When Nathan finally got a chance to show off what he could do on the mound his real talents were recognized. By age fourteen he was playing on the U14 USA baseball team along with his cousin Donnie.

When Nathan got into high school his talents were once again overlooked. He didn’t make the varsity team until his senior year. When I asked him if he thought that it set him back from everyone else he said, “I honestly don’t think so. I could go out there on any given day and pitch just as good as anyone in the conference.” But he did note that having Cerebral Palsy has weakened his throwing power. His senior year, Nathan was second in the conference in appearances. Nathan pitched 12 ⅓ innings while posting a 7.38 earned run average. It was not quite the senior year he was hoping for, but Nathan never got discouraged. He kept trying game after game, pitch after pitch, and never stopped working.

Nathan wants his story to inspire other kids with the same problems to work hard and keep trying. So if anybody ever asks you about Granite City baseball, just remember the story of Nathan Briggs: the man, the myth, the pitcher.