Against the odds

Being able to wake up in the morning, listen to the radio, or attend class is sometimes taken for granted. The motion of swinging a bat or the ability to run to first base doesn’t need a second thought.

Freshman pitcher Capri Catalano didn’t let adversity or hardships overpower her will and determination to live and achieve her goals.

Tony Catalano, Capri’s father, wasn’t sure if his daughter would see her fourth birthday. Just before Capri turned four years old, she contracted bacterial meningitis.

“It was a very traumatic experience. She was in the hospital for three weeks in a coma. We didn’t think she was going to pull through and somehow she did,” Tony said.

Capri completely lost all of her hearing and was one of the first children in the country to have a cochlear implant – a surgically implanted hearing device which produces sound by stimulating nerves inside the ear.

Along with losing her hearing, Capri lost the ability to walk and lost her speech for several years. She had to learn how to talk all over again.

“It was a long process. She spent every day going to school, full-time speech classes, after-school physical therapy, and after school occupational therapy,” Tony said.

Tony said that it took eight years to get her back on track.

“She’s come a long way,” he said.

Capri said she is a “daddy’s girl” and her father influenced her to pursue softball.

Tony was a pitcher in college, Capri’s uncle played semi-professional baseball as a shortstop and her cousin played professional baseball as a third baseman.

As a standout pitcher at Governor Livingston High School in Berkley Heights, N.J., Capri was the 2007 New Jersey pitcher of the year and became New Jersey’s all-time strikeout leader, along with many other high school accomplishments.

On the Associated Press’ first team all-state list of players coming out of high school, Capri was recruited by many schools, including DePaul, Florida State University, and University of Virginia. USF was ultimately Capri’s No. 1 choice.

“(USF) has a really good softball program, good coach and a great school that is a good program for me,” Capri said.

The first time USF coach Ken Eriksen saw Capri play was by chance at a tournament in Ft. Lauderdale.

“We were actually looking at other players on the team and saw (Capri) when she was a sophomore in high school,” Eriksen said. “I saw her again in Pennsylvania and she matured quite a bit and that’s when we seriously became interested in her coming to USF.”

Eriksen believes that Capri’s style of pitching adds depth to the team.

“She is a classic fast pitch softball pitcher. She complements Cristi Ecks and Courtney Mosch very well,” Eriksen said.

Capri’s biggest adjustment moving to Tampa from New Jersey was not going to a new school or getting used to a new team.

“The weather was the biggest change for me,” Capri said.

It didn’t take long for Capri to begin making noise in a Bulls uniform. In 17 games, Capri has allowed 28 hits, 93 strikeouts and a 0.77 earned run average for the season so far.

Along with her love for softball, education is also important for Capri while at USF.

“After I graduate I want to teach deaf kids at home in New Jersey,” Capri said.

Tony says Capri’s will was unbelievable growing up in overcoming her challenging childhood.

“I’ve coached thousands of kids, I’ve been a basketball coach, a baseball coach, a softball coach, traveled for over 20 years. Even though she’s my daughter, Capri is one of the most determined, and courageous athlete I’ve ever known,” Tony said.