Silencing her critics
|By Nathan Deen, The Brunswick News, Ga.|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
She knows she's different, but she wouldn't call her condition a disability. A better word would be "motivation." She had the word "believe" tattooed on her right shoulder. That's her word. That's her advice for anyone trying to accomplish anything.
Bartholomew transferred to Coastal Georgia last summer after growing up in
When Calli was 2 years old, a doctor told her parents,
That diagnosis, however, fell on deaf ears. Tracy didn't listen and got a second opinion.
Calli's grandmother made the discovery that Calli might be hearing impaired. She took a pot and a pan and clanged them together over Calli's head. Her granddaughter made no reaction.
"She wasn't speaking any words except ones that were one syllable like 'da' and 'ba,'" Tracy said. "The first doctor said that she was deaf and that she would never speak. When I heard that diagnosis, I took her to a different doctor. I don't know if it was because I was naive or headstrong, but I thought, 'That's not going to be her life.'"
The second doctor suggested Calli try hearing aids, and Tracy said everything about Calli changed after that.
"She was a wild child," she said. "She would never sit still or let you read a book. She wasn't interested in TV. When she got hearing aids, you could tell that she was taking in so much information for the first time in her life. It was an incredible time."
If her hearing was a disadvantage in school, it only made her work harder to keep up with her peers. She graduated high school without missing or be held back a year.
She didn't want to be excluded from sports, either, although there were challenges.
In one very key high school softball game, Bartholomew had to pitch without her hearing aids due to a heavy rain. When the other team took notice she was hearing impaired, they seized the advantage, stealing bases every time it got a runner on base. She had no idea.
On the track team, she would always get a late start. She couldn't hear the gun. Playing libero on the volleyball team was the most difficult, she said. Everything happens quickly, and she couldn't always communicate with her teammates.
"Sometimes I would like (to hear) just to understand everything people are saying," Bartholomew said.
But no one ever treated her like she was anything less than normal, she said, and she stuck with softball.
In her first year as a Mariner, Bartholomew is sporting a .367 batting average with 18 hits and eight runs batted in in 49 at-bats. She also leads all Mariners with at least 40 at-bats with an on-base percentage of .516, including 11 walks.
"She's a great all-around player," Coastal Georgia head coach
"She's always encouraging her teammates when they're down. She pumps them up and keeps them pumped up."
Bartholomew admits she's probably the loudest person in the Coastal Georgia dugout, the most talkative and the biggest motivator.
Bartholomew's hearing aids aren't covered by insurance, and her family paid
Bartholomew said most people are surprised to learn she's hearing impaired, and some of her friends even forget she is because of how well she speaks.
It's an easy mistake that
"Hi Calli, my name is Jim," he signed. "How are you?"
"Why is he signing to me?" she asked Tracy.
"She can speak?" Jim asked.
"Yeah, she's hearing impaired, not deaf."
Bartholomew loves hearing the voices of her friends and family. She listens to music, and her favorite sounds come from the saxophone.
"I'm determined to have one at my wedding," she said.
Taking out the hearing aids can be an avenue of escape from the world, but she never takes for granted her limited ability to hear, which ultimately prevented her from a life of silence.
"I probably wouldn't be the same person I am today if I couldn't speak," she said. "Sometimes people tell me when they first meet me, that I'm so outgoing and sociable. I wouldn't be like that. I wouldn't be very positive about myself."
-- Sports Reporter
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