Layne Robinson defies odds as he pursues baseball dream

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - "No matter as bad as it seems, it can always get better. Way better than you ever think."

That's been Layne Robinson's mindset his entire life. You can see it as he casually throws a baseball with his father, a smile on his face as he enjoys the sport he's loved since he was three years old.

"I practiced every day when I was six," Layne said with a grin. "When I was nine, that was when Kid Pitch first started and I actually first started traveling to Memphis and St. Louis...that's when I really felt like, hey, I can actually do this and this is my thing."

His mother Connie said it's been baseball since day one.

"Throughout the years, he's just built up to be such a good ball player," Connie grinned.

As a freshman at Notre Dame, the future was bright for Layne.

"We left after the first day of seeing him on the mound as a freshman saying I think he'll throw varsity innings for us," Notre Dame's head baseball coach Jeff Graviett said. "And then, something like this happens."

Just under a year and a half ago, Layne was riding around in a ranger with his friends late at night.

"It was raining that night and we went around a curve, and kind of got loose and basically, the thing over turned on my hand," Layne said quietly.

"I called him," Connie said. "He answers and he's just like, 'Mom,' he said, 'everything I've worked for my whole entire life is gone.' I'm like, what? Is your head ok? And he's like, 'no you don't understand, I don't have three fingers.'"

"I looked down at my hand, but I was in so much shock, I didn't really react whatsoever," Layne said. "It didn't really kick in til two weeks after I got back from the hospital."

Layne was rushed to Saint Francis Medical Center, where his injuries were deemed too severe to be treated and was then rushed to Children's Hospital in St. Louis.

There the Robinson family met Dr. Charles Goldfarb, who would try to save Layne's fingers but there were no promises.

"I remember crying and saying, No, you can't... he has to have his fingers," Connie said. "You don't understand because this is what he is. He's this great baseball player, he's an awesome pitcher. How is he going to be able to recover from that?"

Layne lost three fingers on his left hand from the accident. It looked as if his baseball days were over. To everyone except Layne.

"I wasn't really as down as you thought, " Layne said. "I don't know, I had a deep feeling that I would actually be able to play again."

"If you wanna play baseball, don't let that dream die down," Graviett said. "Even though, in the back of my mind, I thought, there's no way he's going to be able to come back and do anything."

"We were down at the park one day, practicing... He caught one, he catches it, and he doesn't throw it with his right hand," Connie said. "He takes his left hand and fires it into me like he always would."

"After missing it for a whole month, I was just like, I gotta, I have to be able to do this. I can't just go the rest of my high school without playing baseball," Layne said. "Basically, I had to push myself every day to make sure I could play still."

"Baseball was always the conversation," Premier physical therapist Donna Goodson said. "Day one, I play baseball. And that was just him, his life, and what he wanted to return to. So that was always in the goals."

"The hardest thing was probably the sensitivity of my hand," Layne said. "trying to just get it used to 80 miles per hour fastballs again. At first, it hurt pretty bad."

Three months later, Layne took the field with his summer team, like nothing had changed.

"That actually went pretty good," Layne said with a grin. "I though that, hey, if I keep practicing at this and working out, I can actually come back and be good at this."

"It was an aha moment, like oh my gosh, maybe he can still throw," Connie said. "At that time, we weren't even thinking about pitching."

Layne was. And no one was going to tell him he couldn't get back to being the pitcher he was before.

"It was a lot about learning the arm angles and arm slots I had to get to," Layne grinned. "Grips weren't really a problem. I've always thrown a one-fingered curve ball with my thumb on it, of course. And then I just throw a two-seam fastball but with only one finger over the two seams and it feels pretty normal actually."

Now, Layne is a member of the varsity baseball team at Notre Dame. He played outfield and hit for the Bulldogs in 2016, and looks to have a more prominent role in his junior year.

"Layne is a perfectionist," Graviett said. " And if he can't play at a high level, he doesn't really want to play."

Despite everything, when you watch Layne play, you wouldn't know he's missing three fingers on his left hand.

"Nothing was given to him, " Graviett said. "Here's the injured kid, let's give him a token spot. He earned everything he's got."

"I just hope other people take that you can always do it no matter what," Layne said with a grin. "No matter as bad as it seems, it's always possible."

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