Landis Sims documentary shows teenage amputee’s baseball journey

Eric Cochran was looking for an inspirational story eight years ago when he visited a members’ disabled children’s softball team camp in Mission Viejo, California, hosted by the Wounded Warrior Project.

Cochran, a veteran cinematographer, planted himself in the stands. He was there for about 90 seconds when he fixed his eyes on an 8-year-old child who worked with Matias Ferreira, a former Marine who lost both legs below his knees while serving in Afghanistan in 2011.

“Imagine this little, kind of roly poly kid on prosthetic legs and he’s got the bat stuck against his body,” Cochran said. “And he just shoots shot after shot and talks snap. I’m like, ‘Who the hell is this kid? “

In depth :He has prosthetic legs and no hands – and makes no excuses. Let Landis Sims inspire you.

Cochran sat and watched Landis Sims for one day, then worked up the courage to ask his mother, Amanda Sims, to talk to him the next day. Cochran wore a Boston Red Sox cap. Landis, a New York Yankees fan, immediately let it go.

“He started bullshitting me,” Cochran said. “That’s how the relationship started.”

Cochran pitched Amanda the idea of ​​visiting the Sims family at their home in Elizabeth, a rural community near the Ohio River in Harrison County, southern Indiana. “I had no idea what a trip this would become,” Cochran said.

The result, after eight years, is the inspiring true story of Landis Sims, now 16 years old. The 95-minute documentary – ‘Landis: Just Watch Me’ – chronicles Sims, who was born without hands or feet, as he overcomes obstacles on his journey as he strives to make his baseball team at South Central High School.

The documentary, presented by Cochran’s Taikuli Productions and the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), will premiere Tuesday on Apple TV, Amazon Prime Video, Google Play and cable platforms in the United States and Canada. Landis will throw the first pitch Tuesday at Yankee Stadium, the start of a July tour that will see him throw the first pitch at Petco Park in San Diego (Friday), Oracle Park in San Francisco (July 28) and Minute Maid Park in Houston (July 30), plus special screenings with the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

For Landis, the documentary release is essentially a home movie set on film. And there are home movies, provided by Amanda, dating back to the ultrasound when she first found out her son would be born without hands or feet. There are other video clips interspersed throughout the film that show Landis with a bat, hitting balls on the ground, before he even entered kindergarten.

“It’s really cool to be able to look back on growing up and playing baseball,” Landis said. “You can see how far I’ve come and the progress I’ve made and how I’ve gone from being a stocky little kid to being competitive at the high school level.”

The film not only captures Landis’ charisma and focus, but also how those around him played a vital role in helping him achieve his goals. It starts with his mother, who shed more than a few tears along the way. During a particularly touching moment early in the documentary, Amanda, a single mother for most of Landis’ life, the bond between the two becomes especially evident as they share a hug, a cry and then a laugh.

“When I watch these little videos, it reminds me that this has been our life, day in and day out,” Amanda said. “People kind of get a glimpse of that, but all the hard work and just the passion and the determination that he’s had since he was little. For me and Landis and those who love him, it’s been a journey. It has been the journey of a child who picked up a ball before the age of six months and wanted to throw it. And for a family who thought, “What can he throw?” really do with it? Will he really be able to play one day? baseball?’ For this to be shown, it makes me very emotional. Eric has been able to capture some truly amazing moments in our lives over the past few years.”

The film also shows how advances in prosthetics allowed Landis to pursue his baseball dreams. Amanda and Landis spent long hours on the road to and from Joliet, Illinois, to visit David Rotter, who specializes in solving difficult cases to fit clients with prostheses. Rotter’s work is critical to the documentary’s story, as he helps solve Landis’ problems swinging the bat.

The evolution of Landis’ prosthetics is where Cochran’s time with the family pays off. Early in the documentary filming process, Cochran would brush off family members or coaches and ask, “Can Landis really play competitive baseball?” His heart and determination were never a question. It was about the equipment.

“You see in the movie how Landis’ gear evolves and how important that is,” Cochran said. “You have to match the technology with the work ethic and the courage to want to do it. That’s it. That’s what’s so unique about this story and why it’s so fun to tell this story. most people don’t even know the world exists.”

In addition to Rotter’s work, Landis also strikes up friendships with the likes of Ferreira — who became the nation’s first double amputee to become a full-fledged police officer — and San Diego Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove, who developed a friendship with Landis and worked with him. personally. Landis will reunite with Musgrove in San Diego on Friday when a behind-the-scenes video hits the big screen at Petco Park.

Landis Sims (left) and Eric Cochran (right)

“I feel like I could probably learn a little more from him than he can learn from me,” Musgrove said. “I think you have to be able to put yourself out there and not be afraid to fail and be willing to pick yourself up and try again. I mean, he’s been doing that his whole life.”

Cochran joked that he had to find an endpoint for the film “because I couldn’t keep filming this kid forever”. The journey of making the high school team and competing at that level becomes an obvious goal for Landis as the film begins, guiding viewers on this journey with him.

Of course, Cochran took the risk that an 8-year-old Landis’ interests could completely change along the way. But Landis, who wants to coach or announce baseball, has never wavered in his love for the game.

“As long as I can remember, baseball has always been my first love,” Landis said. “It was always what I wanted to do. There have been times over the years where it gets hard and I feel like I’m done and I don’t want to do it anymore. But I’m working on it and I I have my family there to talk to me through the tough times.”

Although the beginning of the film is the culmination of a journey, the story has only just begun for Landis, who is entering his first year at South Central. The relationships he made through Cochran and Bob Babbitt, co-founder of the Challenged Athletes Foundation and executive producer of the film, opened the door to new possibilities. During tour stops, Landis will provide sports-related grants to area children with physical challenges on behalf of the CAF.

“I’m just getting started,” Landis said. “High school is a stepping stone to hopefully managing MLB one day, which is my ultimate goal. … I think we’re just getting started and have a long way to go.”

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