BUFFALO, N.Y. - Sometimes we can't help but root for the underdog in sports and in life. That makes it easy to pull for 15 year-old Josh Oakley of Buffalo, who overcame difficult odds to do something remarkable Thursday.
They say the odds of a baseball pitcher throwing a no-hitter are greater than 15-hundred to one, but Oakley knows a thing or two about beating long odds.
Josh's story began with a childhood where he never knew his father and where his mother battled addiction. He was raised by his grandmother, who unexpectedly died three years ago. It left Josh, just 12 years old, feeling all alone and living a life with almost no direction. His aunt and uncle decided immediately to take him in.
"He was yelling and screaming the day she died," said Josh's Aunt, Vickie Oakley. "(He said) 'I don't want to go and live with aunt Vickie. I don't want to go live with Aunt Vickie, she's so mean. She's so mean.'"
She said Josh thought she was "mean" because she and his uncle insisted he do his homework. For the next three years, they showed him love, sometimes tough love. They also urged him to follow his passion, which is baseball.
"Playing baseball makes me happy," Josh said. "And it gets my mind off things if I'm having a bad day. And it just turns my day around. I live baseball."
Turns out Josh was a natural. He made the varsity team at Riverside High School as a freshman and a pitcher. This Thursday, Josh, who knows all about long odds, tried to beat them. He took a no-hitter into the fifth inning before a batter broke it up. Josh ended up tossing a one-hitter, striking out 18 batters of the 21 he got out.
He was a bit bummed, but only a bit because that young boy, once all alone, found a home on the baseball diamond and with his new family.
"And I couldn't be prouder of him today than I was when he came," Vickie said. "He's my son, as far as I'm concerned."
Josh also considers Vickie his mother now.
"I don't even call (her) my aunt anymore," Josh said. "I call her my mom. And I call my uncle my pops. And sometimes my cousins, my sisters because they're like my true family now. "
Vickie said Josh has changed her life.
"We were out to change Josh. We were out to change Josh's world, and give Josh the best that we had to offer. And it ended up that he changed ours. He changed ours, and he changed it for the better," Vickie said. "I'm a better person because of Joshua. And I don't think that he knows that -- maybe he does, maybe he doesn't -- but I in my heart know. It's funny how God works."
In the end, a young man, like a greater pitcher, learned to work his way out of a jam in baseball and in life.
While Josh just missed a no-hitter, he said he won't let the odds discourage him. He'll try again Monday when he pitches his next game at Coca-Cola field.