Inspirational teen feted by Yanks to begin HOPE week

July 11th, 2022

NEW YORK -- If you watched 16-year-old Landis Sims rope line drives and fly balls to right field at Yankee Stadium on Monday afternoon with his smooth, left-handed swing, he looked like a natural baseball player. 

He was also born without hands and his lower legs. It's never stopped him. Sims' mantra is "Just watch me" -- as in, watch him show everyone what he can do, whether it's play baseball or anything else. And the Yankees were watching him on Monday -- Aaron Boone, Luis Severino, Jose Trevino and more. 

"To see him get in there and swing, you're just like, 'What a stud,' right?" Boone said. "To see Landis, his swing's carbon-cut for Yankee Stadium. It was short, compact -- it's impressive. You can tell what an athlete he is."

Sims was the first honoree of HOPE Week 2022, as the Yankees kicked off the 13th year of their initiative. Standing for Helping Others Persevere & Excel, HOPE Week is a weeklong program that showcases remarkable stories to inspire people to act in their own communities, with the Yankees celebrating a different honoree each day.

On Monday, Sims joined other young limb-deficient baseball players from the Challenged Athletes Foundation at Yankee Stadium to take batting practice, play catch, run the bases and more with Yankees players and coaches. He'll also throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Yankees' series opener against the Reds on Tuesday.

"It's an amazing thing," Sims said. "It's a lot different than taking BP at any other field. I took it in Tampa, [Fla.], at [Yankees] Spring Training, and it's not the same as this."

The Yankees first met Sims when he was 10 years old in 2016, signing him to a one-day contract and inviting him to Spring Training, where he spent the day with the team. He then represented the Yankees at the MLB Draft in 2017.

"It's been really awesome having [the Yankees] by my side along my journey playing baseball," Sims said. "I got to see back then how hard everybody really worked. … Seeing all of them work as hard as they did inspired me to work hard, too."

Now, as a high schooler, he's the one setting the example for kids facing similar challenges. Last year, he made his varsity baseball team at South Central High School in Elizabeth, Ind. And on Monday, Sims showed not just the Yankees, but the other HOPE Week participants, what he can do on the field.

Sims took several rounds of batting practice (he hits with a special device that attached the bat to his arm) and even pitched to the Yankees' All-Star catcher Trevino (he throws the ball from his glove, and can even throw different types of pitches).

"There's rumors going around that his swing plays in this ballpark," Trevino said. "I give him three months, six months -- he was a lot closer today [to a home run] than I think he thinks."

And as far as pitching, the Yankees catcher added: "He's got it. So … watch out, Gerrit Cole."

Sims doesn't lack a ballplayer's confidence, either -- he told Boone and Trevino that he should be batting in the two-hole, in front of Aaron Judge.

A documentary about Sims' baseball journey, titled "Landis: Just Watch Me," premieres on Tuesday. And after his first pitch at Yankee Stadium, Sims will also throw out the first pitch at Giants, Padres and Astros games later this month.

In addition to honoring Sims, the Yankees also presented the Challenged Athletes Foundation with a check for $10,000 on Monday as part of the HOPE Week event. The HOPE Week honorees also got a special video message on the jumbotron from former Yankees pitcher Jim Abbott, who pitched 10 seasons in the Major Leagues and threw a no-hitter despite being born without a right hand.

"It's just incredibly inspiring to see that nothing's gonna get in their way," Boone said. "To see Jim Abbott talk about it -- it's prove what you can do, and not what you can't do. These kids are a testament to that. It's humbling just to be a part of that, and to see them shine here on the diamond at Yankee Stadium."