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A Home Run for Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month 

Apr 24, 2023 |

By Mike Crist, Editor

Owen Mahan did a lot of cool things when he attended his first Cincinnati Reds baseball game last week. 

He met and hung out with the Reds players and team personnel. He watched batting practice up close behind home plate. He threw the ceremonial first pitch to commemorate Limb Loss and Limb Difference Awareness Month. 

And, of course, there was the autograph session. 

Wait a minute, though. This was no typical autograph session. In this instance, the players were the ones asking and 15-year-old Owen was the one signing his name. 

“They are just very caring people,” Owen, an Indiana teenager, said. 

Owen has a baseball card of his own (he’s an All-Star, after all), and the players were eager to sign it. 

Owen sustained severe burn injuries when he was 2 years old. Complications from that led to amputation of his legs later. “Legs are overrated,” he likes to say. 

Lindsay Braun joined Owen as the catcher of his first pitch. She was the primary nurse at Shriners Children’s Ohio when he was originally injured, and she remains an important part of his family’s life. 

As part of its Reds Baseball Welcomes All initiative, the baseball team invited Shriners Children’s to send a representative to the game. Jessica Wagner, marketing and communications coordinator, knew Owen would be an excellent choice. He also received care from Shriners Children’s St. Louis. 

“Owen is fearless,” she said, “standing in front of crowds to explain why he may look a little different than everyone else. He greets every stranger with a smile, charming people with his humor and compassion.  

“We couldn’t ask for a better ambassador, not only for Shriners Children’s but for all children living with burn scars or limb differences.” 

Fearless? Consider this: George W. Bush once said throwing the ceremonial first pitch before the first game when baseball returned to New York after the 9/11 attacks was the single most nerve-wracking experience of his presidency. 

Owen just had fun. He did not experience any nerves. 

“I’m not a shy guy,” he said. “I’m really social.” 

If Owen felt no jitters, in a time-honored baseball tradition, his mom, Susan, did. 

“I was nervous,” Susan said. “I just always worry about how people are going to look at him when he’s there. I have to learn to let him go out and do more things on his own. 

“When I saw that the players were asking him for his autograph, that really made me feel better. I was fighting back tears.” 

Experience always helps. This was his first Reds game, but he has been to others involving the Chicago Cubs (MLB), Indianapolis Colts (NFL) and Indiana Pacers (NBA). 

He also set fundraising records in October while serving as a standard bearer at the PGA Tour’s Shriners Children’s Open golf tournament in Las Vegas.  

Owen divulged his special tactic for raising money: his “20 bucks and you get a leg story” T-shirt. He wears the shirt and, as it says, if you donate $20, he’ll tell you his story. Eyewitnesses say it works. 

And, along with representing burn patients and people in the limb loss and limb difference community, he speaks at schools with an anti-bullying message. 

Susan described a trip to a nearby school that demonstrated his effectiveness. After his talk, he always challenges someone in the audience to a race. 

After they accept the challenge, they learn they have to run on their knees to make it a fair contest. 

“Owen always chooses his opponents,” Susan said. “237 races, and he hasn’t lost yet. He’s undefeated.” 

On this occasion, a school official approached her after the race.  

“He asked me how Owen knew who to pick,” Susan said. “I didn’t know what he meant. He said the ones he chose were the worst bullies in the school. 

“Now, one of them isn’t a bully anymore.” 

Owen found the experience in Cincinnati to be exciting. “That field is a lot bigger than you think it is,” he said. 

Before the first pitch, the Reds played a two-minute video about him on the Great American Ballpark scoreboard. 

Because of scarring from his burn injuries, his shoulder is tight, restricting his movement. He is due for another surgery soon.  

So nobody was sure if he had the range of motion to throw the ball to the catcher on the fly. But of course he did, and Lindsay made a fine catch too. 

Afterward, he flashed his trademark smile. 

Nobody was surprised by that. 

“Owen dreams without limitation,” Wagner said. “He doesn’t believe in the word ‘can’t.’ If there’s an experience he wants to try, he makes it happen.”