It was perfect in every other way.
Winters is a gritty 16-year-old Winter Park High School junior who lost his left leg at mid-thigh and parts of his right leg in a horrific boating accident that nearly killed him 20 months ago, and returned to pitch again in varsity competition Monday night.
He limped to the mound to start the game against Colonial, and he limped off the mound after three outs each inning, taking the ball with a maturity and determination that far exceeds his years. His fastball was clocked at 80 mph, average for high school, but there was nothing average about his return to baseball.
"He's just a fierce, fierce competitor,'' longtime Winter Park baseball coach Bob King said. "It's why he was able to come back so quickly. It's why he's alive today. Forget baseball, it's the only reason he survived.''
He left opposing batters baffled by his curveball and surprised by his control. He left a crowd of about 500 -- friends, family, baseball curious -- inspired, in awe, cheering and smiling with every pitch. For those that knew his story, there were tears of pride and joy.
He started and allowed just one hit and one unearned run before leaving after one batter in the fifth.
"This turned out better than I ever imagined it would,'' Winters said after getting a standing ovation from the crowd in the stands and from players in both dugouts. "I guess miracles do happen.''
Most of the players on the Winter Park High School team arrived at the field late in the afternoon with their own equipment bags, housing a bat, helmet, glove and anything else they might need.
Winters arrived with a leg bag, holding the most important piece of equipment he would need, a custom-made prosthetic left leg, designed for athletes, and the proper tools to adjust it when needed due to the accident.
The summer after his freshman year, Winters was boating with his older brother and a couple friends when a sudden sharp turn knocked him overboard into Lake Maitland, where he was run over and almost devoured by the whirling propeller.
His left leg was shredded beyond repair. His right Achilles tendon was sheared and two toes were lost. His buttocks were sliced, and ribs were broken. His femoral artery burst, almost immediately turning the water crimson. Before he lost consciousness, he somehow swam toward the boat, where he was pulled back aboard.
His brother wisely found a ski rope to make a tourniquet, calling 911 as they sped back to shore, fortunate that a hospital helicopter and a trauma center had been alerted.
When paramedics arrived, they put him in trauma trousers to help slow the bleeding. He thought it was a body bag, however, and started screaming again to remind everyone that he still was alive.
By the time he reached the hospital, he had lost nearly 80 percent of his blood, and according to one trauma center doctor, it was more than anyone ever had lost, and still lived. He was whiter than the sheets he was laying on.
When his parents arrived, they were escorted into the chaplain's office to prepare for the worst. The doctors somehow saved him.
"When your hemoglobin goes down to where Nate's was, your chances of surviving are about one in 10,000,'' said his father, Tom Winters, an orthopedic surgeon. "He was just about dead.''
He spent the night on life support, miraculously awakening the next morning, discovering that close to 100 baseball friends and family had spent the night praying for him in the hospital waiting room.
There is no crying in baseball dugouts, but most of them cried that night. His one leg was gone. His remaining foot was so battered that surgeons considered taking the left foot off the severed leg and replacing the right one. That surgery never happened, but there have been nine surgeries since the accident.
"I told him I'd buy him a better leg than the one he had,'' his father said. "I reminded his friends that that wasn't the night Nate lost his leg. It was the night his life was saved.''
Unable to walk through a slow, painful recovery process, he turned away from baseball and turned to his musical interests, playing his guitar in bed or in chairs for most of his waking hours. It led to the formation of his reggae/rock band he plays in today.
By last fall, getting comfortable with his prosthetic leg, he started itching again to play the game he always loved. He first played when he was four, rising through the age-group competition as a travel-team player skilled enough to think he could play one day in college. He had made the Winter Park High School varsity as a freshman, serving as a reliable pitcher and backup catcher. That summer came the accident.
When he first started flirting seriously with the idea of pitching again, he tried throwing to a friend in the bullpen of the school field. The ball got halfway to the plate. The next time, he fell off the mound when he lost his balance.
During an intrasquad scrimmage in January, he fell again because his prosthetic leg was too stiff. He went home embarrassed.
"He said 'Dad, I can't do it,''' Tom Winters recalled. "All I've ever told him was that every player has a last game of baseball, whether it's in Little League, high school, college or Major Leagues. Everyone deserves a chance to cross that finish line a final time. I just wanted him to leave on his terms.''
Returning to sports was more difficult because his leg was amputated so high, yet his comeback progressed, encouraged by King and the fight that he saw in the youngster.
He was fitted with a new leg, with some spring in the knee section. King pitched in two low-key junior varsity games earlier this month, meeting with some success but needing too many in-game adjustments to his leg. He lands on it awkwardly, causing particular stress on his arm and back. He pulled a groin muscle.
He disconnected the leg between innings in one game, and couldn't re-attach it correctly, forcing King to find another pitcher. He has fallen off the mound more than once.
"We're in some uncharted territory here,'' King said. "I can't help him with much. He asked me if he could sit in his boxers between innings because it felt better if he could air out his (amputated leg) a little bit. I told him sure. Then he couldn't get the thing latched back up.''
Yet, Winters remained undeterred. One junior varsity team talked about possibly bunting to expose his lack of mobility. He talked about accidentally hitting the next batter in the numbers if they tried.
His teammates, mostly close friends, have grown fiercely protective. On Monday, the third baseman played closer to the plate to protect him against bunts. Several players have his number 15 sewn into their shoes as a tribute. They wait for him before running out onto the field. They surrounded him every time he came off.
"Some people say I'm an inspiration to them, and that's nice, but I'm not sure I deserve that,'' he said after not getting a decision in a 4-3 loss. "I don't think of myself as being handicapped or anything like that. If I want to do something, I'll still find a way to do it. And right now, I just want to play baseball.''