Fifth-grader's role in Draft an inspiration

June 13th, 2017

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- Tears streamed down Amanda Haag's face as she watched her 11-year-old son, Landis Sims, perfectly announce the Yankees' first-round selection of right-hander Clarke Schmidt on Monday night, resulting in a standing ovation from the many baseball legends who honored the boy on the floor of the MLB Draft at MLB Network's Studio 42.

"He is very comfortable in who he is," Haag said. "He truly believes that God made him very special. He's not missing anything. I don't see many 11-year-olds in general that have the confidence that he has. Just to be able, with all the challenges he has, to be able to do that, as a parent it makes me so proud to be able to see that. I'm just very excited for him."

:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

He was born without hands or feet, but his mother was exactly right. Landis Sims isn't missing anything. He slugs baseballs and runs with the help of prosthetics from the Challenged Athletes Foundation, which was represented in the Draft audience by founder Bob Babbitt. Sims and his family came from Elizabeth, Ind., and he was given a tour of the Yankee Stadium home clubhouse, a dream for a young Yankee worshiper. Then came this unprecedented honor at an MLB Draft, before a massive international audience.

After reading the first 15 picks, Commissioner Rob Manfred took the podium and said: "Tonight we welcome a special young man, a fifth-grader from Elizabeth, Indiana. We want all young people to play ball, and no one illustrates that mission any better than Landis. He has not allowed anything to deter him from his dream of playing Major League Baseball one day. We are delighted to invite Landis to announce the Yankees' first pick."

A few picks later, Manfred was asked about "Commissioner Landis" stealing the show. "Just a great moment," he said. "I had a chance to chat with him a little bit before the Draft started. He's really an amazing young man, just absolutely crazy about the game, a lot of presence about him, and I think he really enjoyed his night at the Draft."

Oh, did he enjoy the Draft. After uttering the phrase, "The Seattle Mariners have the next pick," Landis calmly basked in the magnificent reaction by the 53 club representatives, which included Hall of Famer George Brett and 17 other former All-Stars. Everyone in Studio 42 stood and cheered, including the four players who were being drafted in that same first round.

"I wasn't really expecting it, but it was just amazing being able to call the name and getting a standing ovation from some of the former players," Sims said.

He knew that his friends back in Indiana would be following this, but he kept an even-keel cool, the kind Derek Jeter used to show.

"I would like to just do something with MLB," he said, "but it doesn't matter what."

That would seem to be a strong possibility at this point.

"I thought he was amazing," said Nick Swisher, who was working the Yankees' Draft table and hugged the boy after the first round. "Him and the Commissioner are like buddies now. It's so nice to meet a guy like this that has such a positive outlook on life, and just to be one of those guys kind of standing next to him, or to be able to be near him and hear his story, it's so inspirational. People really need to start paying attention to stuff like that."

They do back in Elizabeth. America can learn a lot by how that town treats Landis.

"We keep getting messages. Everybody just loved him," Haag said. "We have a very small community, and they really support and just love him. They're proud of him. I love being from a place like that. That's also part of who he is, because of his friends, our community, the people who have helped raise him into this confident young man."

Eric Byrnes, the former player and current MLB Network analyst, watched Sims' big moment while sitting next to Babbitt in the outfield seats at Studio 42. They have known each other since Byrnes retired and got into endurance sports. Babbitt is the founder not only of Competitor Magazine, but also Challenged Athletes Foundation, which helps provide prosthetics to disabled athletes. Babbitt told Byrnes about Sims, and Byrnes passed it on within MLB. Earlier this year, Byrnes help make possible a round of home run derby at Studio 42 for Sims along with MLB Network talent.

"Obviously Landis' story speaks for itself and it doesn't need me or Major League Baseball or anybody else to glorify it," Byrnes said. "Just what he's able to do is a miracle in so many different ways. What Challenged Athletics Foundation has been able to do for Landis, with the prosthetics that are now available for challenged athletes, is incredible. Here he is, living a pretty normal life. It's been an absolute honor to be able to get to know him.

"I'm glad it's getting the attention, because I believe that it will inspire other kids with disabilities. They're going to be able to say, 'Hey, just because I have this disability, there's still a lot I can do to live my life and to prosper.' If I feel sorry on any given day, I'll just go look at Landis, and never a bad day."

It's all true. But Landis Sims was just being himself on Monday. He'll be just another sixth-grader this fall at South Central Middle School. Inspirational?

"I'm sure everybody tells you that," he said, "but it's just kind of a normal thing for me."