DE PERE — With less than a week left in the regular season the De Pere Redbirds baseball team currently sits at third place in the Fox River Classic conference.
They have a lot of talented players on their roster, but one player who has given them a boost this year is sophomore Easton Arendt. He's getting it done in the outfield, pitching and you guessed it, hitting as well.
“He's always a hardworking guy and everybody just follows his lead,” said Redbirds head coach Bob Van Rens. “Even though he’s just a sophomore, he always comes ready to play.”
Baseball runs in Easton's family. His grandfather Terry Jorgensen had a cup of coffee with the Minnesota Twins and other members of his family played in college and the minors.
“My grandpa was in the major leagues, so he kind of introduced me to it,” said Easton. “My dad was a very good baseball player as well.”
As just a sophomore, Easton started near the bottom of the Redbirds pitching rotation and batting order. As the season has progressed, he’s at the top of both.
“Very proud of him and his accomplishments and how he’s made himself better and how he got himself to the position that he’s in now,” said his father Jason Arendt. “He worked hard and he had too. He had to work a little harder than everyone else had to.”
What makes what Easton is doing even more special is he’s basically doing it one handed. He was born with only a pinky and a thumb on his left hand.
“He (was born) and they just really said, ‘he’s a beautiful baby boy, except he’s missing three fingers on one hand.” And we’re like, ‘what can't believe that.’ You go through the questions of everything that happens and how it works and how you’re going to teach him to tie his shoes or button up his shirt, just live daily life activities, let alone play at a high level that he’s playing at right now.”
When he was young Easton had someone to look up to in former Major League pitcher Jim Abbott who was born without his right hand.
“Knowing that he got there the way he is made me feel like I could do the same thing,” Easton said.
Not only did he have to overcome playing with one hand, but also the feeling of not being the same as everyone else.
“Early on in my middle school days I was a lot different, I felt like,” Easton said. “Then as I got into high school or late middle school, I felt more like I fit in more – more like everybody else.”
Easton and his dad put in a lot of work to help him get to where he is now. As for how he plays, he catches and throws with his right hand. When he catches the ball with his glove, he tucks it under his left armpit and takes the ball out with his right hand. He bats left-handed. It’s taken him a long time to master hitting given that he can hardly grip the bat with his left hand.
Javin Gauthier, Easton's best friend and teammate and head coach Bob van Rens have seen him grow basically from when he started playing.
“The first thing you can say is — just wow,” Gauthier said. “He’s got one capable hand and he’s doing everything that normal baseball players do and it’s crazy.”
“He was just as quick as the other kids, getting the ball, getting it into his armpit, getting it out and throwing – from that day I thought this kid could play,” Van Rens said. “I never looked at it as a disability. I could tell he was a good player and he was going to do what needs to be done to get the job done.”
The reason Easton was eager to do this story was to show other kids like him that anything is possible.
“I think he can be a great inspiration for anybody,” said Van Rens, who is also a teacher. “I have been using this in my classroom just recently about what a success story he has been.”
“There's no limitations for anybody. You can make things and for having this glove and having the ability to overcome certain things, that’s what makes me the most proud,” said his father Jason.
Easton is hoping all his hard work will one day pay off so he can play at the NCAA Division One level in college.