Keenan softball player shines on the diamond despite birth injury

By Mandy Mitchell - bio | email

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - DeAna Smalls is a softball player at Keenan High School.

She is also the valedictorian. But believe it or not, that's not what makes her stand out.

Routine grounders are anything but routine for the high school senior. "My first year playing with DeAna, it was kind of different," said teammate RayShanna Maxwell.

"It takes a confident and driven person to do what she does," said teammate Raven Shealy.

It also takes a little creativity. Smalls can only use one of her arms. But she's found a way to not only play softball but to excel. "It was a birth injury," said Smalls, "Left my arm paralyzed from the elbow down."

"It don't phase her," said Coach Betty Gortman, "She wanted to play, so she came out."

She throws with the same hand she holds the glove with. It's not convenient by any means, but it works. "Just something I came up with from the ninth grade on, learning what would work best for me," said Smalls, "The best way to get the ball out and make the play."

When she comes to the plate, she uses one arm with the power of two. "They always be shocked that she can do that," said Maxwell.

"She come out here, she do everything," said Coach Gortman, "She never complains."

It's a lesson in finding a way to succeed by striking out doubt. "It gives other people hope to be more confident in what they do, to pursue their interest no matter what," said Smalls.

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