Gabby Stallard, her glove in her left hand, knocks down the hard-hit grounder. She shakes the glove off, grabs the ball with her left hand and fires a strike to first for the out.
It’s a routine play that usually has opponents making double takes and wondering, “What just happened?”
The Glendale Prep 14-year-old freshman second baseman is also fast down the base paths, beating out ground balls with her one-handed slap hits.
She is the second-fastest player on her softball team behind only to older sister A.J., a sophomore who will be Gabby’s double-play combination when she’s playing shortstop.
Gabby Stallard, who is 5-foot-3, 90 pounds, is flourishing in her first year playing high school softball with cerebral palsy, a movement disorder she was diagnosed with when she was 4.
During preschool, Gabby had a fall. She hit her face on the ground, unable to break the fall with her right hand.
“The nurse thought she had had a seizure, which began a series of tests to determine the diagnosis,” father Scott Stallard said. “We just wanted to make sure that she had the best health possible so that she could do the best she could.”
There was no holding Gabby back.
She went through occupational therapy. Even though she walks with a bit of a hitch in her stride, she runs. Fast.
“As a toddler, she was resourceful and learned to use her right hand to assist her,” Scott said. “She taught herself to knock the ball down, shake off her glove, and throw with her left hand.”
Maggie Stallard, who works in wellness and is an athletic trainer, has helped with her daughter’s development.
“Softball was the first thing she was able to compensate,” Maggie said. “She’s been very good on how to work around it. She’s pretty persistent because of that.
“She learned to get quicker and quicker. At second base, you got quick runners, and you’ve got to get it out. She just worked hard at trying to figure out how to do it.”
Maggie hears the remarks from other parents in the stands when Gabby makes a play at second, throwing off the glove to throw with her left hand.
“I say, ‘Yeah, that’s my daughter,’ ” Maggie said. “They say, ‘That’s so cool. How does she do that?’ They comment about how awesome that is.”
It wasn’t always so easy.