‘Tough as nails’

Published 9:51 am Thursday, May 2, 2019

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Jessamine softball coach takes on player with vision problems

With many years experience as a player, and a few as a coach, Mikey Garrett stepped up to lead a girls softball team three years ago and was asked to trade a girl for a player who wished to play with her friends, but there was one catch – she couldn’t see.
“Three years ago I was called to take an expansion team for girls softball,” Garrett said. “My daughter moved up and they were looking for a coach to take girls to the next age group. I said, ‘ok, I can do that.’ I had coached a travel team when my sister was six or eight so it wasn’t the first time.”
After picking all eight of the girls he wanted, Garrett said he knew it was going to be a great year and sat down to contact all the parents. That night, he received a call from the manager of the league posing an interesting question and proposition.
“He said, ‘Mikey, I got a question for you,’” Garrett said. “Would you be interested in trading one of your girls for another girl. I said ‘no.’ But then asked, ‘what is the catch.’ He said, ‘she can’t see.’ I asked, ‘what do you mean she can’t see?’ He told me it was fixed and she had played a few years ago when all of her eyes were crossed and the girls made fun of her so she didn’t want to play anymore. But, then she decided she wanted to play again after she had surgery and I had all her friends.”
For a split second Garrett said he thought there was no way. But then, he had a change of heart remembering his struggles as a player in high school.
“When I was a sophomore in high school I was cut from the baseball team for being too fat,” Garrett said. “Now, my pitching coach played for the Yankees the White Sox and said this was the biggest mistake. So I was thinking back to that. I thought this little girl that is eight is probably going to go through the same thing I went through, and I worked hard and got a scholarship to Asbury after all that – but at the same time, she is eight. That split second was just that, a spit second, and I said absolutely.”
Garett said he traded his last pick for Tinley Hager and called his dad to tell him the news.
“He said, ‘are you kidding me,’” Garrett said. “I said ‘nope,’ and he said, ‘we will figure it out. We will sink or swim, but we will do it together.’”
Hager is now nine years old and is the team’s catcher.
“I looked at dad and I said she will be my catcher,” Garrett said. “She will learn. She is going to have to learn, and what better way than to see the ball for an hour and a half every pitch, you are going to figure it out.”
This season, Garrett said Hager is nine for nine and has got on base 100 percent of the time.
“She is my catcher and she is tough as nails,” Garrett said. “If I told her to run through the wall she would run through the wall.”
Even though she had surgery to fix her eyes aesthetically, she still has an issue seeing the ball like other players do.
“It is a process and I have spent hours out of practice with her,” Garrett said. “It is hard to look and say, ‘ok what does she see?’ If I could see what she saw, then I could help her better – but I don’t know if she sees part of the ball or if the ball disappears and she sees it again. Whatever she is doing is working and our time we have spent together has benefited her. I wish I could see what she saw to help her, but right now she is doing great.”
Next year, Garrett’s players move up to a new age group which he said saddens him.
“We laugh about it now, even with me getting cut, you end up with a scholarship or an offer but you were cut,” Garrett said. “Same thing here. She could go play college – all these girls can. There is not too many better stories out there. I teach all my players, life is not fair but you are going to figure it out. We will win with dignity or loose with pride.”

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