They call her “Lefty.”
She’s a senior softball star for Lanesville High School, team captain three years running. A leadoff hitter, she bats a shade under .600 with a slugging percentage north of .750 and an on-base clip of .670. She leads the Eagles in more than 10 statistical categories. But that’s just the start.
She’s even more impressive in person. The standout is a natural in the batter’s box, her vision sharp as a ball slipped outside the strike zone to spur a leadoff walk-on senior night this past Monday. Three pitches later, she raced home after two stolen bases and a play at the plate, the tone-setter in a 15-1, five-inning Lanesville win.
The Eagles’ seniors were substituted one-by-one as the final half-inning began, each showered with cheers from the home crowd. Last came Lanesville’s “Lefty.” As she made her way from center field to the dugout, the applause grew considerably – for good reason.
Her name is Katelyn Pavey. Her journey has thus far culminated in a successful high school career and a chance to play at the next level, but it’s been anything but usual. Pavey was born with phocomelia, a rare birth defect characterized by underdeveloped or absent limbs. She has half a left arm with two digits just below the elbow. But you’d hardly know it.
“I don’t see myself as having a disability,” Pavey said. “Disability is ability, I believe. I believe I can do anything anyone else can.”
Pavey leads the Eagles in hits (44), runs (34), stolen bases (40 in 43 attempts), RBIs (20) and walks (18), for starters, and has 42 putouts in 47 chances. She hit her first home run on May 3, a straight shot over the center-field fence. Pavey’s father, Eric, a second-year head coach at Lanesville, said his daughter’s talent is well earned.
“They see the product on the field, but they don’t see the amount of hours being put in behind the scenes and the amount of hours she has practicing,” Eric said. “For example, last Friday, I gave the girls off, but she came down here and hit for two and a half hours on her own. … People don’t see that. I think what makes me the most proud is she’s had the dedication to get better. She’s never let it stop her.”
Katelyn was impressing Eric before she could even walk, he said. At two years old, she was catching foam fly balls. It wasn’t long before she owned her first glove.
“I dropped it and she caught it,” Eric said. “ … I dropped the ball again and she caught it again. So I went out, after she could sit up, and bought a glove from Wal-Mart, one of those Velcro gloves. We started throwing it to her, and she’d catch it.”
Eric has coached Katelyn the majority of her career, including her tee-ball years and the past two seasons at Lanesville. His father, David, has coached alongside Eric during his stint with the Eagles. David, along with Eric’s brother, Darren, received major-league interest during their baseball playing days. Also a former quarterback, Darren was a standout catcher for New Albany in the late 1980s. He still holds the record for all-time putouts.
“Three generations on one field, that’s a blessing to have,” Katelyn said. “It’s so cool to play with a family that knows how to play ball and have fun. Everyone is supporting you.”
Not every coach along the way has been as accepting, though, Eric said. Katelyn tried out for and played under different coaches during four years of travel ball, some less open-minded than others.
“We’ve been told no a few times,” Eric said. “It motivated me to work her harder, and it motivated her to work even harder.”
After the video made its way around the Internet, Katelyn was invited to coach at the foundation’s camps. Also a basketball player at Lanesville, she coaches softball, hoops and volleyball at the annual camps, which take place in Illinois every July, in addition to regional events recently in Florida and Tennessee, she said.
Katelyn’s camera roll is filled with photos and videos of children she has positively influenced. Four-by-six-inch print-outs are arranged on her senior night poster board, one of a boy with no arms. She taught him how to hit.
“It’s amazing to see what she can do,” teammate Katelyn Hurley said. “Honestly, she makes me want to become better, like I look up to her.”
A role model to many already, Katelyn hopes to become a motivational speaker and college softball coach after her playing days, which will extend beyond high school. Katelyn signed on with Cincinnati Christian University in November of last year. CCU watched Katelyn play at a camp in Brandenburg, Ky. – put on by the late Vernon Bibb – as a sophomore, and the program showed interest from the get-go, she said.
Eric said he plans to collaborate with an author on a pair of biographies for Katelyn, one focused on her high school life – from tying her shoes and fixing her hair to how to swing a bat – with a follow-up on her college career. The working title: “Life Lessons from Lefty.”
“I think God’s given her a platform to show others that you don’t need two (arms) and to show others that it’s possible if you put in the work and you want to play,” Eric said. “… She’s started to grow in her faith and – what I call – own her arm. … She owns it to where people come up to her after games and come up to her after travel ball tournaments and talk to her and tell her what kind of an inspiration she is to them.”
Adjacent to Katelyn’s senior night poster board and photo collection sat a framed letter titled, “Go. Play. Catch.” The letter was from Eric, thanking Katelyn for her commitment to the game, especially at a young age.
“Your smile grew bigger and bigger,” the letter read, “and each year you played, you got better and better, and your love for the game and your determination and willingness to succeed grew right along with your jersey size.”
She’s fulfilled her lifelong dream of playing in college, she’s solidified herself as an all-area performer, but above all else, she said, she’s inspired the lives of those around her.
They call her “Lefty.”
“At first, I didn’t expect to be that inspiration,” Katelyn said. “I didn’t own it, that I had one arm. I was kind of backwards and shy at the beginning. Once I grew older and learned about NubAbility and learned how to become an inspiration, then I saw I can do stuff, and I can help inspire people. That’s what I want to do.”