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June 2, 2003

Deaf high school softball player faces unique challenges

From:, MI - Jun 2, 2003

The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS, Mich. (AP) -- Accompanied by an interpreter on the field, a deaf high school softball pitcher excelled during her first full varsity season.

Lizzy Martinez split duties on the mound with a fellow St. Louis High School junior and broke a school strikeout record when she fanned 13 in a game against Lakeview.

"It's a team game, and I just worry that I'll make a mistake that will let my teammates down," she told the Morning Sun of Mount Pleasant for a recent story.

At a tournament, Lizzy got hit by a foul ball that she didn't see coming. Unable to hear calls of "Head's up!" that are common in ballgames, she compensates by being extra attentive -- both on and off the field.

"It shocked me a lot," she said of being hit. "I'm always all eyes when I'm out on the field -- a deaf person has to be."

Her interpreter, Erica McCloud, stands on the field to relay information in sign language. And the foul ball aside, there have been few bumps for the Sharks in fitting Lizzy into the lineup.

The addition of McCloud as interpreter helped Lizzy make the adjustment to high school sports while playing in this mid-Michigan community about 20 miles southeast of Mount Pleasant. A former high school and college softball player herself, McCloud understands the game well.

"Getting information into her (Lizzy) has been easy. Her interpreter stays on the game very well. ... I just can't change something mid-play with her," St. Louis coach Steve Beattie said. "One of the interesting things I realized was that a lot of the things I'm saying don't even need to be relayed to her."

Lizzy's mother, Kimberly, yells like any other softball mom, even though her daughter hears none of what she says during games.

"She reads my lips. If I keep my mouth shut, it looks like I'm not paying attention to the game," Kimberly Martinez said.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.