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Tyler Jacques, 9, was born about 12 weeks premature and with amniotic band syndrome.
Palm Coast Thursday, Jun. 16, 2011 8 years ago

JUST YOUR AVERAGE KID

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by: Andrew OBrien Contributing Writer

Tyler Jacques is just like every other kid on his Palm Coast Little League team. And if you ask him, he’ll be sure to tell you that.

Jacques, 9, just finished his season playing for coach Ed Mullins, on the Tom Gibbs Chevrolet Palm Coast Little League Minors-A team, which features players ages 9 and 10.

The team had a competitive season, according to Mullins, though it ended with a losing record.

“But we had a lot of fun,” Mullins said, adding that a lot of the losses came in close games.

But for Jacques, it was another season of learning. Jacques was born at about 28 weeks — 12 weeks premature.

Because of being born early, Jacques was born with a stub near his knee on his left leg and also a deformed hand. Since birth, he’s endured 12 operations, including a full hip replacement and a few plastic surgeries.

But despite the obstacles, Jacques still finds himself positioned in right field, and doing anything he can to help his Little League team get better.

“I like hitting better than playing in the field,” Jacques said, smiling, as he holds his glove in a June 13 interview at Indian Trails Sports Complex. “I like the action of hitting rather than standing in the outfield, waiting for the ball.”

Jacques’ right hand also did not form properly. So when a ball comes out to him in right field, he fields it with his glove — which is on his left hand — then takes the glove off, holds it under his right arm, and then throws the ball in with his left hand. Jacques said he also likes to play second base.

Mullins, who has been coaching Little League for seven years, said every team has challenges — whether physical or mental. Jacques was the second player Mullins has coached with physical disabilities.

Mullins recalls Jacques telling him at the beginning of the season that he didn’t want to be treated any differently, though.

“The best thing about Tyler was his attitude,” Mullins said. “He always had a very positive attitude, and (he) tried hard. He really didn’t want to be treated differently from any of the other kids, and he let me know that.”

For the most part, Jacques’ teammates treated him like any other kid, Mullins said. When pushups were required at practice, Jacques did his, too.

“Tyler did his share of pushups along with the rest of the kids,” Mullins said. “He still kept positive and always tried his best. You couldn’t ask for someone to go out there and give more heart than Tyler did.”

Jacques’ mother, Jennifer Esty, said she didn’t know about her son’s birth defects until he was born, but to this day, that hasn’t changed the way she treats her second-oldest son. Esty has four other siblings who play in Palm Coast Little League, including Jacques’ brother, Harley, 10, who played on the same team.

“Everything was pretty normal (growing up),” Esty said. “We never treated him different. We’ve always had the same expectations of him.”

Esty hopes to get Jacques a sports leg one day, which would enable him to bend his ankle and will afford him more flexibility and range of motion.

He also hopes to get a specially made glove for his right hand so he no longer will have to switch hands every time he has to throw the ball.

But no matter what the future brings, Esty knows her son will continue to be just like every other kid.

“It is what it is,” Esty said. “Nothing will ever change. You play the cards you were dealt, and these are the ones Tyler was dealt.”

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