Claremore Daily Progress

Columnists

October 9, 2010

The Littlest Lady Cardinal

VERDIGRIS — A fun-filled season of softball came to a sudden and disappointing end this past week for the young ladies on the Verdigris High School team.  They were eliminated on the first day of the Class 3A state tournament.

For the senior members on the squad, their high school softball is now over.  Not so for the underclassmen, however.  The latest setback will be used for motivation to come back even stronger next year.

Just ask junior Keri Weber. Anyone who watched the Lady Cardinals play this season knows Keri was not the top pitcher on coach Brian Keith’s team that finished with a 31-5 record, that was Abbea Porter.

Keri also was not the best hitter nor did she play the most important fielding position at shortstop. Each of these jobs was held by Lexie LaValley.

Actually, Keri didn’t play very much.  During most games she was on the bench.

Despite this information, there remains a key element about the Verdigris team:  Porter and LaValley may have provided the “heart” for the Lady Cardinals with their leading performances, but Keri filled the “soul” role.

She has Dubowitz Syndrome.  This is an extremely rare genetic disorder that causes multiple disabilities, including a lack of growth and learning ability.  Discovered in 1965 by an English doctor, there apparently is no cure.

A junior this year, she is easy to identify even when she is surrounded by team members or students.  Keri is usually the smallest one with the biggest smile.  

The 17-year-old daughter of Terri and Kevin Weber, a cute petite teenager, is a special young lady.  This was evident from the start as I was able to meet her the day before she and her team left for the state tournament.  Her mother and her paraprofessional, and good friend, Suzann Worley was also present.

She is usually shy around newcomers.  I had been told by her mother that she would answer questions with short sentences.  This she did after usually a couple of seconds of thought.

She didn’t mind missing class to talk with me.

Her favorite subject in school is math.

When challenged recently to sing a solo in class by a friend, she did and then challenged him to do likewise.

She doesn’t really enjoy watching television a lot.

No, she doesn’t have a regular boyfriend.

Yes, she wishes Coach Keith had let her play more.

Please don’t think the latter is criticism on her coach.  She just wants to play more and is already excited about next year’s senior season.

Both Keri and her mother owe the softball coach enormous gratitude for her progress in school over the past five years.  It was the coach who went to bat for her in the first place when it came to playing softball.

Terri Weber explains it was shortly before her daughter was getting ready to enter the seventh grade when Keith called her.  He wanted Keri to come out for softball.

 “I knew that he was looking for numbers so he could field a team,” she said, “but there were many other athletic girls he could have called.  He knew Keri from class and her participation with baseball and softball through her older brother and sister.  He must have also known what he was in for.

“My first thought was she would get hurt and also drive Coach Keith crazy.  He convinced me both of them would be fine.”

That was in Junior High

Despite Mom’s worry, Keri didn’t get hurt.  By the following year she was the crowd’s favorite at each game.  

Every time she came up to bat all players and fans were on their feet cheering for her.  This even carried over to the opposition.

A walk put her on the base for the first time.  Later when she caught her first fly ball in right field she was too excited to throw the ball back to the infield.

During her final game as an eighth grader Keri hit a pitched ball.  She was thrown out at first base.  Much to the bewilderment of the opponents, her teammates ran out and dog piled her as the Verdigris fans cheered loudly. It was the third out of the last game, but it didn’t matter.  Keri had gotten on base, caught a fly ball and hit the ball to put it in play.

High School Doubts

This was a good place for Keri’s softball career to end or so believed her parents.  

High school sports become most competitive.  Would it be fair to ask the other players to accept a teammate that now stood all of four feet, six inches tall?

Once again the coach convinced Keri’s parents to let her come out for the team.  Still the family concerns lingered about her maybe getting hurt, but the worry about being accepted was just the opposite.

The whole team wanted her.  However, their acceptance of Keri did create a problem at first. They wanted to protect her too much.  Coach Keith is well known for his “in-your-face” coaching methods at times. When he raised his voice to Keri or even kidded her, the others would jump all over him.

Maybe they still didn’t like it, but her teammates were quickly convinced by the coach and her mother that Keri should be treated the same as they were.  

That is the way it had to be.

As a Lady Cardinal on the high school level for the last three years and still with one year remaining, that’s the way it has been.  

She gives her all in practice and the times she is in a game.  She cheers just as hard for her teammates when she is watching from the bench.

Health issues have thrown many strikes at her since her birth 17 years ago.

Still Lady Cardinal softball player Weber hits a towering home run in the game of life.

This young lady stands tall.    

 

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