The Edgewood College softball team had a late addition to its roster this season. Last week, they signed McFarland teenager Mary Young to the Eagles squad for two seasons.
But softball fans won’t see the youngest member of the team stepping up to the plate.
The 15-year-old McFarland High School freshman has never played the sport competitively, but Edgewood’s players and coach were eager to have her join. What Mary brings to the team isn’t something that can be reflected in the player’s stats.
“You can just see them light up when they see Mary, and Mary lights up when she’s with them,” said her mom, Johanna Young.
The teen was signed to the Eagles through Team IMPACT, a nonprofit organization connecting youths with serious and chronic illnesses with local college athletic teams to form life-long bonds.
Mary has Hypermobile Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, a chronic connective tissue disorder she was diagnosed with about two years ago. Her joints are more flexible than the average person’s and are more apt to being dislocated. There are other associated symptoms like fatiguing more easily and aching joints.
“You think of aching joints as something older people experience,” Johanna Young said. “There’s constant pain, because the body is working so hard to keep the joints together.”
Competing in a sport like softball is out of the question for Mary. What it doesn’t mean is limiting the McFarland girl’s opportunity to be part of a team.
It was Edgewood’s softball team, helmed by coach JP Richards, who stepped up to the plate when Team IMPACT sought a local college team for Mary to join. He called the McFarland resident in November to give her the news she would be joining the squad.
While the official signing was in late March, Mary started spending time with the Eagles a few months ago. She’s attended team events and had dinners with Richards and his family.
“Mary has brought a lot of life to this team. We are just getting started,” Richards said in a release.
As a member of the Eagles, Mary is invited to attend all team practices, home games and team events. Her teammates even helped her celebrate her birthday in February.
Johanna Young said it’s been great to see her daughter bond with the athletes.
“The team has repeatedly said, ‘We know Mary feels good about being part of the team, but it means so much for us, too,’” she said.
The oldest of three children – her two brothers are 13 and 6 – Mary enjoys having a group of big sisters.
“It’s really cool; we’re like sisters,” she said. “They’ve all been really nice. I’m excited to get to know them more.”
Getting to know a team of 15 athletes was a bit overwhelming in the beginning, but Mary has been able to get to know her teammates, particularly a group of four freshman players. The teenager pointed out when she’s old enough to enter Edgewood College, the quartet will be in their senior year.
Even before Team IMPACT paired the McFarland student with the Eagles, Mary had her sights set on Edgewood for her college education. This has just further strengthened her desire to attend there. One of the factors in looking into Edgewood was the accessibility it offers to students with physical limitations.
Mary and one of her brothers both have EDS. The diagnosis has assisted Mary get additional support as needed at school and the correct type of physical therapy.
“The diagnosis was actually kind of a good thing,” the teen said. “People think that being diagnosed is a scary thing or bad, but most people with EDS have trouble getting diagnosed, so when they are, it’s a good thing.”
“They say ‘We have EDS, but EDS doesn’t have us,’” Johanna Young said.
Since her diagnosis, Mary has become an advocate for the disorder. The family helped create a support group for people in the Madison area who have EDS and are also in the process of finalizing plans for a trivia night fundraiser for EDS Wisconsin slated for April 13 at the Avenue Club/Bubble Up Bar in Madison. More details on the event can be found online at https://edswi.org.