MARIEMONT, Ohio -- Mariemont senior Emma Adams represents everything good about high school sports in Greater Cincinnati this spring.
And you’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of sportsmanship than what occurred Tuesday afternoon in the Cincinnati Country Day School at Mariemont softball game.
Adams, who has Down syndrome, pitched overhand to three batters on Senior Day Tuesday afternoon at Stanton Field.
“She was like Juan Marichal on the mound with the stretch and the whole process,” said her father, Chris Adams.
With Cincinnati Country Day and Mariemont players cheering each pitch, Adams struck out the first two batters and picked up a grounder and threw to first for the third out.
“That right there,” Mariemont coach Pat Hessler said, “is what high school sports is all about. It’s about doing the right thing for the right player.”
CCDS head coach Scott Lemen and assistant Theresa Hirschauer were happy to oblige for Emma’s opportunity prior to the start of the game. Mariemont also supported CCDS by recognizing their three seniors, too.
The CCDS players were thrilled to help with Emma's grand moment.
“It’s human nature that kind of transcends everyday life,” Lemen said. “I think it takes a little bit of stress away and kind of puts a human perspective on what life is about.”
Emma has been a part of the Mariemont softball program for the past three years. Yet she never expressed wanting to pitch prior to Tuesday. But there she was taking warm-ups in the circle. The umpires were on board with the idea, too.
“It was so much fun,” she said Wednesday night. “I was happy the coaches let me pitch.”
CCDS won the game 12-0 but the players will remember how Emma inspired them.
“I talked to so many of the softball girls today and they said it was a chill-inducing moment,” CCDS Athletic Director Chris Milmoe said Wednesday. “It’s something they can remember the rest of their lives.”
For the love of the game
Adams, 19, is a huge baseball fan. She loves the Reds. A photo of her favorite player, Joey Votto, hangs in her bedroom in Terrace Park. She had great seats for Opening Day and got a close-up photo of Votto walking off the field in between an inning.
Adams also loves to mimic Pete Rose’s aggressive, headfirst base-running style. Adams does just that into every base while on the softball field whether it's necessary or not.
“It’s awesome,” Madeira softball coach Nikki Ladd said. “You just have to see it.”
As a student manager and utility player, Adams has remained committed to the softball program. Mariemont is in its first year as a varsity program this spring. The team is still young. It's determined to get better.
Adams and senior pitcher Sarah Pearson were recognized on what could be the final home game Tuesday. The good friends were able to hold their bouquet of flowers in a photo with the Mariemont coaches. Emma was thrilled with the moment.
“The joy she had in telling me all about (the game) Tuesday night was just amazing,” Chris said.
Even though Mariemont has a 2-12 record this spring, Adams helps to bring levity to the team.
“I think the team has had a great impact on her and I think she’s had an amazing impact on them,” said Chris Adams, who is executive director of Stepping Stones, a nonprofit United Way partner which helps create independence for people with disabilities.
Emma attends each practice. She likes coaching the other players. She once took 155 photos on an assistant coach’s phone at a game -- those photos later helped the coaching staff instruct the other players.
“I know they love her to death,” said Hessler, who has coached and umpired softball for more than 30 years. “They’d do anything for her.”
Hessler never had a special needs student-athlete in his coaching career prior to this spring. But Adams has made him re-evaluate his coaching style. Tuesday was a perfect day, Hessler said.
“No matter what happens,” Hessler said. “Just look at the smile on her face.”
That smile was evident April 20 when Emma batted against host Madeira. She reached on a hit then slid into every base head first before scoring.
The Madeira softball team has enjoyed supporting Adams the past few years. She played right field in a game two years ago.
Last year, Emma suffered a season-ending injury when she shattered her ankle in the preseason and had to have seven screws and two plates installed.
Ladd was happy to see Adams return this spring. She loves her enthusiasm. The Madeira players feel the same. They couldn’t be happier that she was able to hit last month and pitch this week.
“I think it teaches them that it’s not always just about winning No. 1,” Ladd said. “Sometimes it’s just about having fun and doing the good things.”
Rising to the occasion
Emma was a part of the Mariemont swim team the past four years. She competed during the Cincinnati Hills League meet and was able to improve her times in the 50 and 100 freestyle events this past winter.
Whether it’s softball or swimming, the Mariemont coaches just try to keep things fun for Emma. Tuesday was a perfect example. Emma responded when the coaches and teammates looked toward her on a such a significant day.
“It is the great moments of high school athletics,” said Theresa Hirschauer, Cincinnati Country Day’s softball assistant coach. “You would never see this for club teams or other levels.”
Emma, the youngest of four siblings, will certainly carry the experiences of senior year into Clemson next school year. She will join a program called ClemsonLIFE where she will gain life and job skills in order to be gainfully employed as a young adult.
Emma is interested in politics and government and may pursue an occupation within that field. No doubt she will dive head-first into an occupation.
And there will certainly be plenty of supporters within the Greater Cincinnati high school sports community in whatever she decides during her future.
“Emma is the star here,” Hessler said. “She’s 100 percent the star.”