After the Whistle

How I Became an Athena

How I Became an Athena

 

I never intended on going to Claremont McKenna College. In fact, I am from Claremont; I have lived here for most of my life. I can make a 5-mile radius of my elementary school, middle school, high school and college. So, no, I did not dream of going to college 2.7 miles from my house.

Since I was eight years old, it was my dream to go Georgia Tech and be a Yellow Jacket. My aunt was a walk-on softball player at Georgia Tech. She was their 4-year starting catcher and set the homerun record there. She was my idol and I wanted to be just like her. I wanted to be a Division-I athlete. This is what drove me. It was this end goal that motivated me through practices, CrossFit workouts, pitching lessons and batting lessons. It was my light at the end of the tunnel.

Neither of my parents went to college. The whole college search process was chaos for us. I started high school and the recruitment started. I remember participating in showcase after showcase. There were those showcases in Vegas in 110 degrees where I was pitching three games in a row. I didn’t care though. It was for that jersey that said Jackets. Eventually, the offers started coming in. I was at the beginning of my junior year and it was finally starting to become real. I hoped that some D-I offers would lead to the only D-I offer I was really looking for. It was still early in the recruiting process and I had plenty of time. It would come, I said to myself.

My parents were always fearful of a career-ending injury.  They told me not to put all my eggs in one basket with athletics. They made sure my academics were more important than softball so that I would always have something to fall back on. I will always be grateful to them for that. I was in the International Baccalaureate program at my school, president of a club, worked two part-time jobs, tutored and did countless other extra-curricular activities. I wanted to make sure that nothing held me back from the college of my dream so I did everything.

On November 19th, 2013 I was admitted to Miller’s Children Hospital. I was tachycardic which meant that I had a rapid heart rate and I needed to be put on a dopamine drip for my low blood pressure. I couldn’t breathe due to chest pains and my liver and spleen were not fully functioning. I had an incredibly high white blood cell count which led my doctors to first believe I had a staph infection in my blood. I was to be in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) until my vitals were stable and then to remain in the hospital for two weeks, minimum. My mom and I were shocked. Two weeks? I had class. I had tests. Thanksgiving was next week. I could not be in the hospital for two weeks. I didn’t have time to be in the hospital for two weeks. There was nothing we could do.

I remained in the PICU for three days until I was transferred to the general floor. I did not have a staph infection as my doctors soon found out. However, they could not figure out what I had. I kept getting continuously worse. By the time Thanksgiving rolled around, I was under the care of a pediatrician, infectious disease specialist, cardiologist, rheumatologist, and oncologist.  The doctors told my parents that they should prepare themselves in case I did not make it out and that if I did live, I would probably never play softball again. It would be the second child they lost, as my brother passed away from Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia in 1997. It crushed them.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t die and I did play softball again.

I stayed in the hospital for a month as they tried to figure out what was going on. By the grace of God, I started to get better although they still did not have a diagnosis. My liver and spleen were functioning; I was eating; my white blood cell count was returning to normal. Things were looking up and I was finally discharged a month later, 20 pounds lighter (putting me at 110 pounds at 5’7”). It wasn’t until after my discharge that the doctors discovered what was wrong. I had MAS which stands for Macrophage Activation Syndrome, a genetic deficiency in my immune system that would be with me for the rest of my life. That meant that my little hospital stint was probably gonna happen again and that I was always going to have to be a little more careful about my health than the rest of my peers.

At the end of it all, I had missed almost 6 weeks of class. Mind you, this is my junior year which is considered the most important year of high school with regards to grades and test scores. I had a projected 4.6 GPA that dropped to a 4.2 once I eventually caught up on all that work. I was able to step on the field again but it took me nearly 6 months to fully recover. It felt like I had to learn softball all over again. I went from being one of the best in my conference to struggling to be average. I lost all my offers. There were girls out there who were just as good who didn’t have a 6-month gap in their playing time. Schools were not interested. DI was not an option.

As I entered my senior year of high school, nearly a year later, it came time for me to make a decision about college. The dream that I had of being a yellow jacket was simply not going to happen. I was lucky that my parents made sure that I got good grades in high school. I applied to over 10 colleges and I wasn’t going to play softball at any of them. Initially, CMC was not one of those 10. I refused to go to school so close to home until I realized that CMC was too good of a school to not apply simply because of the location. However, my scores were just below the average and my counselor told me that I probably wasn’t going to get in. Last minute, I reached out to Coach Betsy Hipple of the CMS softball team. She told me that she already had her class for that year and could not help me get admitted. She did say that I could be on the team if I could get in on my own. I applied Early Decision II and then waited. I remember my teachers, my counselor, even my parents did not think I would get into CMC.

Another spoiler alert: I got in.

On February 13th, I was accepted to Claremont McKenna College. This was the only school I applied to that I would play softball at.

I have been an Athena for nearly three years now and I can not imagine not playing softball for CMS. I also could not imagine playing softball for a DI university. At CMS, I play because I love the sport of softball not because I need to in order to keep my scholarship. At CMC, I have gotten involved in so many things on campus that I am truly passionate about. CMC has allowed me to develop my leadership skills on and off the field. I would not have had the same opportunity at Georgia Tech or another big-time DI program. I spent the last two summers not having to play softball but planning orientation and WOA for that year’s incoming class. I was also selected as a Resident Assistant for Auen Hall which I would not be able to do if I played DI softball. There are so many aspects of my life and identity that have been shaped by the things I have done outside of softball. As much as I love softball, my CMC experience is so much more diverse and fulfilling because I have had the opportunity to make a change on this campus.

As a religious person, my family has always said that God has a plan. After some of my crazy life experiences, I believe that He does have a plan. I also know that I may not understand the plan; in fact, most of the time I won’t but I have to trust in His plan. Being a Yellow Jacket was not a part of the plan He had for me. I was always meant to go to CMC, I was always meant to be an Athena.

 

Chloe Amarilla  |  Softball

Claremont McKenna - 2019