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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Chambers: a step ‘a head’

    Arizona designated player Stacie Chambers takes a swing in the Wildcats doubleheader sweep over Marshall at Hillenbrand Stadium on March 26. Chambers battled back from brain injuries following getting hit in the face with a foul ball last fall to become one of Arizonas most reliable hitters.
    Arizona designated player Stacie Chambers takes a swing in the Wildcats’ doubleheader sweep over Marshall at Hillenbrand Stadium on March 26. Chambers battled back from brain injuries following getting hit in the face with a foul ball last fall to become one of Arizona’s most reliable hitters.

    When Stacie Chambers joined the Arizona softball program last year, she had every intention of being the next great Wildcat catcher.

    But it didn’t take long for Chambers – an NFCA first-team All-American in 2005 and 2006 for Cactus High School in Glendale – to get hit off her track, literally.

    In Arizona’s fall tournament prior to the commencement of last year’s season against Central Arizona College – a game in which Chambers had already hit a home run – she smashed a foul ball directly into her own face, knocking her out and giving her a concussion.

    She missed the entire season dealing with the aftermath of the blow to the head and Arizona’s second consecutive Women’s College World Series championship.

    Eventually it was determined that the blow caused minor brain damage.

    “”It was a foul ball, – I didn’t know that, I thought I just got hit and I just didn’t get out of the way quick enough,”” said Chambers, who is now a sophomore designated player. “”My dad took pictures of it actually and he showed me what happened.””

    What Chambers didn’t know was that quarter of a second would alter the rest of her life.

    “”It changed my whole life around. I went from being able to play softball and doing whatever I wanted to not being able to pick up a ball,”” Chambers said. “”It took a toll on me.””

    But it wasn’t just an easy concussion to get over, or an injury that could heal in time. It wasn’t even missing last season that continues to get to Chambers. It was the effects the blow on her mentally – scars that won’t go away.

    The hit caused a Traumatic Brain Injury, which has an array of different symptoms. Among a few are loss of memory, mental confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness and possible loss of coordination.

    “”I ended up getting a brain injury from that,”” Chambers said. “”All year last year I was in therapy. I had to go through cognitive speech therapy. I use the (Disability Resource Center). …I have a lot of one-on-one tutoring now. I am just a lucky person.””

    But through all the struggles she’s been through over the course of last year, she still found a way to make it back out where she loves it: the softball diamond.

    Sure, she wears a facemask at the plate and she battled the apprehension of live play her first few outings, but as the season progresses, she is continually improving and returning to the form that was expected: a star.

    Ironically enough, her love for the game hasn’t kept her from playing conceivably the most dangerous defensive position of catcher. At any moment a foul ball could bounce off a bat and hit her in the head, but the risk isn’t enough to keep her away from what she loves.

    “”I just love playing softball in general. It is my life,”” Chambers said. “”I don’t know what to do when I’m not playing.””

    If there is anyone who is most happy Chambers has returned with her same ability to hit the ball, it’s Arizona interim head coach Larry Ray.

    “”It has been a big plus (that she was able to come back), and not only for her, but us. Nobody really truly understands what she went through,”” said Ray, who personally recruited

    Chambers. “”We had a doctor come in and try to explain some of the things she may have experienced, but it’s really hard when you haven’t been there. …The brain works in funny ways, and though she may appear to be normal and do things like everyone else, she’s not feeling those things, so it hard to for the girls to relate to her sometimes.

    “”I’m really glad she is back,”” Ray added, “”and she is becoming the type of player she thought she could be when we recruited her.””

    Chambers, who has played in all of Arizona’s 34 games, has been the big bat in the order thus far. She’s tied for the lead in home runs with current starting catcher Callista Balko (11) and leads the team in RBIs (35) and bats .305.

    It’s been a long road for Chambers, but a road that’s just started. As her collegiate experience continues to progress, it looks as though she’s on her way to her initial goal of becoming Arizona’s next great catcher.

    “”It was a pretty drastic situation, and to be where she is now is just unbelievable,”” Balko said.

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