Samantha Padilla is proving you don't need all five senses to be able to play the sport you love. Padilla is on the varsity softball team at Lufkin High School and was born completely deaf.
While she can't hear what's going on around her, come game day she proves being deaf is not a disability. She just has to do things a little differently.
At a softball game others will hear the way the ball dings off the bat, the crowd cheer for runners coming into home plate and the endless chants that come from the dugouts. For Padilla, it’s a silent mask over an animated scenery. Padilla has played softball since she was four years old and silence has become her normal.
Padilla admits growing up deaf had its frustrating moments, but instead of calling it a curse she's embraced it as a blessing.
“Honestly, I really believe God made me this way. He made me deaf because in all my family, nobody’s deaf in my family but me. I think God wanted me here to help all the deaf people in the community so that they can do better and do what I do,” signed Padilla through her interpreter Rene Heintschel.
Softball is more than a game for Padilla.
The junior has accepted being deaf as her calling and with her silent spirit she's determined to let that resonate within the deaf community.
“I always encourage other deaf people to become what they want and I tell them not to quit. You have to believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams,” signed Padilla. “Many people start to decide what hearing people tell them and I'm like ‘No, you have to think positive. I want you to do better just like me. You can do anything you want to do.’”
You would think not being able to speak or hear would make things difficult to communicate on the diamond, but her longtime friends and teammates have picked up on their signing and have found other ways to community rather than using their voices.
“She used to teach me and I'd watch YouTube videos and learn the alphabet. Then as we got older she taught me more,” said shortstop Jasmine Ibarra.
“When there’s a pop up call she says ‘Ball, ball, ball’ and you can hear her voice. She'll call you off,” said pitcher Christa Radke.
Padilla's other channel of communication and trusty sidekick is Heintschel who interprets Coach Holcomb's instructions for her.
Growing up, Heintschal's mother was deaf. Her circumstance would later land her in a field that she claims isn't a job, rather it's God's work for her.
“When I was younger I’d pray to God, ‘God, why did you make my mom deaf? Why? I don’t understand. It’s not fair,’” said Heintschal. “At the age of 26 I finally realized God made my mom deaf so that I could help deaf kids become anything they wanted to be.”
Heintschal insists through her questions and doubts, it was all about timing out of her own hands.
“You say and ask God for things, and feel he never answers. He answers in His time, not ours. That's a perfect example of God answering my prayer,” said Heintschal.
Padilla has turned out to be a walking inspiration on a radar far bigger than just within the deaf community, but also with her team.
“She's not disabled at all. I don't treat her any differently than any other player on the team,” said first year head softball coach Shelby Holcomb. “She’s changed my life forever and like I said, I can’t be more proud of her and how hard she works. She inspires me every day.”
“I believe that God takes care of me. I believe I can do everything because of God. I believe in God,” signed Padilla.
Padilla's dreams don't just stop on the softball field. She signed that she wants to continue her education and go to college to become an orthopedic surgeon.
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