Much like the Postal Service motto that claims its carriers refuse to allow any outside elements to prevent them from making their appointed rounds, Skylar Parton refuses to let even a birth defect prevent her from playing the game she loves.
Parton is a high school freshman at Silverdale Baptist Academy and a member of the Lady Seahawks' softball team. A valuable member, too.
Parton and her teammates are competing this weekend in Soddy-Daisy's 24th Lady Trojan Inviational tournament at the Soddy Lake Kids' Park. Pool play is scheduled to begin this morning at 9. The first of Silverdale's three pool-play games is against East Hamilton at 10:30.
The 17 teams in the tournament will be placed into Gold and Silver single-elimination brackets Saturday based on pool-play records. The Silver final is scheduled Saturday afternoon at 1:30, and the Gold final is set for 3.
Parton has brachial plexus palsy, or Erb's Palsy, which has rendered her right arm limp. Erbspalsyonline decribes Erb's Palsy as "a nerve injury that effects the movement of a child's shoulder, arm and hand. The injury usually happens when too much force is applied to the baby's head, while trying to pull out a baby stuck in the birth canal."
Skylar also plays soccer for Silverdale. But softball, which would seem much more challenging for someone in her condition, is her favorite sport.
"I just love playing the game," she said.
Skylar, who often is the designated player for the Lady Seahawks but can play in the outfield, was 4 when she began playing organized softball for the Firecrackers in the Ooltewah recreational league. Her father, Ricky, said in the beginning she would wear a glove on her right hand and throw with her left, which is not her natural throwing hand but had to become her throwing hand if she was going to play in the field.
She has since learned to catch with her left hand, discard the glove and throw with the same hand.
"To me it feels normal," Skylar said.
Batting, which she does from the left side, is her favorite part of the game. Silverdale coach Tim Couch said Parton is a slap-hitter who tries to take advantage of her speed but has the ability to hit the ball over a too-shallow outfielder's head.
"Skylar has a good eye for the ball and makes good contact," Couch said. "She's not going to strike out much."
Couch had seen Skylar play in middle school at Silverdale, as well as on her summer team, the Frost Falcons '99, coached by her father. Couch said he knew she was going to help the Lady Seahawks' production right away, but she's also provided inspiration.
"She's fairly quiet and doesn't say a lot," Couch said. "Being a freshman, that's not abnormal. She kind of leads by example. With the disability she has, she could be one of those people who makes excuses and complains, but she never does. That says a lot about the way she was raised.
"I guess it's grit? Determination? I don't know. She's got something about her to where what she has doesn't affect her mentally or physically."
Skylar's short-term goal is to become the heir apparent to Silverdale junior center fielder and leadoff batter Allison Meadows. Meadows displayed her grit and determination last year when she worked her way back into the lineup earlier than expected from a stab wound she received while out of town over spring break. And even so, she admires how Skylar is able to play with her condition.
"I don't know if I'd be able to do that," Meadows said. "I do know how hard she works. She's probably one of the most dedicated players I've seen."
Proof of that dedication surfaced long ago. She was in a large cast after having shoulder surgery when she first suggested to her parents she was interested in playing softball.
"I knew at that point she was pretty serious," her dad said.
Proof of her dedication surfaced this week when the family took two vehicles on a vacation to Orlando, Fla., so her father could drive her back in time to be at practice Thursday.
Skylar Parton knew at an early age playing softball is something she wanted to do. And "neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night" -- nor Erb's Palsy -- was going to prevent it.
"No matter what, you can always try," Skylar said. "Most of the time you'll succeed."
Contact Kelley Smiddie at email@example.com or 423-757-6653. Follow him at twitter.com/KelleySmiddie.
Kelley Smiddie is a sports writer who has worked at the Times Free Press for 12 years. He covers high school sports and softball. Kelley’s hometown is Chattanooga, and he graduated from Brainerd High School and graduated Chattanooga State and UTC. Contact Kelley at 423-757-6653 or firstname.lastname@example.org.