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Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove, right, in Antarctica with Landis Sims, 16, a varsity baseball player despite having no hands or lower legs. Musgrove made the trip to raise awareness of the Sorrento Valley-based Challenged Athletes Foundation. Photo by Werner Kruse/Albatros Expeditions
Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove, right, in Antarctica with Landis Sims, 16, a varsity baseball player despite having no hands or lower legs. Musgrove made the trip to raise awareness of the Sorrento Valley-based Challenged Athletes Foundation. Photo by Werner Kruse/Albatros Expeditions
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In Antarctica, Padres’ Musgrove brings heat to help disabled athletes

The pitch reached 86 miles per hour while the thermometer showed 26 degrees, with No-No Joe transforming into Snow Globe Joe. What exactly was Padres’ right-hander Joe Musgrove doing heaving five pitches off a makeshift mound in Antarctica?

Musgrove, the only Padre to toss a no-hitter, was throwing for dough in the frigid conditions. He aimed at a blustery target 60 feet, 6 inches away, with a delivery that was felt in North County and beyond.

The benefactor of this bizarre event after a blizzard was the Sorrento Valley-based Challenged Athletes Foundation, which provides compromised competitors with the financial and emotional support to live an active lifestyle.

Joe Musgrove throws an 86 mph fastball on Dec. 2 to fellow pitcher and former Padres teammate Sean Manaea, setting a record for the fastest pitch thrown in Antarctica. Photo by Werner Kruse/Albatros Expeditions
Joe Musgrove throws an 86 mph fastball on Dec. 2 to fellow pitcher and former Padres teammate Sean Manaea, setting a record for the fastest pitch thrown in Antarctica. Photo by Werner Kruse/Albatros Expeditions

When realizing how these determined CAF athletes overcome the loss of limbs and other obstacles and still shine, maybe Musgrove isn’t that big of a star.

Oh, he is, but this was a victory for human kindness in Antarctica and not one Musgrove often finds in the box score.

“This was his brainchild,” CAF’s Christy Fritts said. “He wanted to turn his vacation and bucket-list fishing trip into bringing CAF athletes with him to  show them what they could do.”

Long ago, Landis Sims put Musgrove on his stringer of admirers. Sims, a baseball player minus hands and lower legs, became a buddy with Musgrove when he played with the Houston Astros.

Photo by Matt Cheok (Cheokolateblog)
Challenged Athletes Foundation athletes (from left) Landis Sims, Roderick Sewell and Justin Phongsavanh joined Joe Musgrove’s expedition, participating in hiking, kayaking and other challenging activities in the extreme terrain of Antarctica. Photo by Matt Cheok (Cheokolateblog)

That launched a friendship that continues, and Musgrove was bent on making sure Sims, 16, made the trek with him.

The good news is a September event Musgrove hosted raised funds for Sims’ inclusion. When Musgrove kept tugging at the attendees’ emotions, enough cash was collected to also take two CAF Paralympic athletes: Roderick Sewell and Justin Phongsavanh.

Those warm hearts assisted in an outing that had moved at a glacier pace.

“It was freezing out there,” said Carlsbad’s Fritts, the CAF media relations director and yes, she has stopped shivering. “But those three CAF athletes were incredible and took on every challenge at every turn. The entire trip was amazing.”

Among those headwinds was getting approval to play catch in one of the most environmentally sensitive places on earth. Musgrove and crew waded not through icy waters but the bureaucratic hula hoops to get permission for their pitches.

The result was the fastest pitch to be thrown in Antarctica, with the seal of authenticity from Guinness World Records on the horizon.

Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove and Landis Sims kayak in Antarctica. Photo by Matt Cheok (Cheokolateblog)
Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove and Landis Sims kayak in Antarctica. Photo by Matt Cheok (Cheokolateblog)

But Musgrove’s offering didn’t carry as much weight as Sims’ tickling 43 mph with the first of his two pitches.

“You have to get that to 44 for me, Landis,” Musgrove said, urging his pal to find more velocity.

Sims followed orders and hit 44, which is Musgrove’s jersey number.

“I’m constantly inspired by Landis Sims and the athletes from CAF who overcome their challenges every day to achieve their goals,” said Musgrove, who returned on Monday. “Antarctica is one of the world’s most remote and extreme destinations. I can’t think of a better place to showcase pushing the limits of what’s possible.”

Musgrove is fresh from an All-Star year and continues to do right to those needing assistance through CAF, which has touched countless athletes in North County and points elsewhere.

Joe Musgrove launched a 86 mph four-seamed fastball to teammate Sean Manaea on Dec. 5 on the icy, remote continent. Photo by Matt Cheok (Cheokolateblog)
Joe Musgrove launched a 86 mph four-seamed fastball to teammate Sean Manaea on Dec. 5 on the icy, remote continent. Musgrove sold the ball and his glove to raise roughly $10,000 for the nonprofit. Photo by Matt Cheok (Cheokolateblog)

Since 1994, CAF has collected nearly $150 million, which has funded more than 40,000 requests for athletes in all 50 states and about 70 countries. Like Musgrove’s heave in Antarctica, the CFA pitch is remembered for its eventual impact.

Want to pitch in as well? Musgrove would approve. Go to challengedathletes.org to donate.

Musgrove got busy filling the CAF coffers in Antarctica, where one of the balls he threw went for $4,500 and the glove he was wearing fetched a similar figure.

That’s $9,000 to put more courageous athletes on cloud nine, and who can resist an offering like that?

“We not only present the athletes with grants, but a lot of times, it’s something more important, and that’s being part of a community,” Fritts said. “A newly injured athlete might be missing an arm, and he sees someone like him. That creates a lifelong friendship.”

Musgrove clicked on various levels by going way out of his way to help others.

Contact Jay Paris at [email protected] and follow him @jparis_sports. Read more Sports Talk columns

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