Even after losing the NAIA World Series on Friday, St. Thomas University baseball player Ben Ancheff still had reason to celebrate: The 300-lb. pitcher caught the Internet’s attention because of his skills – despite not having a typical baseball player’s body.
“I was just kind of sulking with my teammates and someone on my team had their phone out and was like, ‘Ben you’re famous,’ ” the 6-foot-2 athlete tells PEOPLE. “It’s still kind of a blur right, now but I appreciate all the positive comments.”
Thousands of viewers praised the 23-year-old college junior’s performance on social media despite the 10-7 loss in Idaho against Lewis-Clark State.
“Whoever says ‘Pitchers aren’t athletes’ obviously haven’t seen St. Thomas’ Ben Ancheff in NAIA WS,” one fan Tweeted.
“I know the reason I’m blowing up is because I’m such a big guy. I look like an offensive lineman out there pitching,” says Ancheff, who also played for the University of Georgia and the University of Central Arkansas before landing at St. Thomas in Florida. “But I hope people can see past my size and look at my athletic ability and my pitching skills.”
Ancheff – who says he’s been a big guy “always, my whole life” – is also taking the negative comments about his weight in stride.
“I just try to be a good person and I don’t think anybody is perfect in the world,” he says. “If people want to be negative that’s on them, that’s the way they want to live their lives. I don’t really dwell into it too much.”
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Though the athlete does think his weight could hold him back from being drafted for Major League Baseball, he hopes to inspire other kids who don’t fit the typical mold.
“I hope that if there are kids who are self-conscious or anything like that, that they know they shouldn’t be,” he says. “If you’re big and you think you can do it, you might as well go ahead and try. You don’t have to be what everyone wants you to be.”