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updated: 3/27/2014 5:19 PM

Barrington's new arrivals answer the challenge

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  • Video: Barrington Softball

  • Barrington softball player Caitlin Inamoto succeeds using the Jim Abbott-style of catching the ball in the mitt, then taking the mitt off and throwing the ball with the same hand.

       Barrington softball player Caitlin Inamoto succeeds using the Jim Abbott-style of catching the ball in the mitt, then taking the mitt off and throwing the ball with the same hand.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Barrington softball player Caitlin Inamoto has learned to excel using the Jim Abbott-style catching the ball in the mitt, then taking the mitt off and throwing the ball with the same hand.

       Barrington softball player Caitlin Inamoto has learned to excel using the Jim Abbott-style catching the ball in the mitt, then taking the mitt off and throwing the ball with the same hand.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

When learning her family was moving from New Jersey to Illinois for her senior year, Caitlin Inamoto headed to the internet.

"As soon as she knew our high school (Barrington), she googled it," said Caitlin's twin sister, Jennifer. "She was all excited, saying 'Jen, they've got a really good softball team, really good. You've got to see this.' "

Starting Friday at the Rosemont Indoor Dome, area softball fans will see the twins starting -- at third base (Jennifer), and right field (Caitlin). Barrington finished third in the 2013 Class 4A state tournament.

They will also see how a young lady has gracefully handled a challenge that makes her performance on the field all the more impressive.

Caitlin Inamoto was born with a deformity to her right arm. The arm stops slightly below the elbow.

She has gone through life with the use of one arm and hand, including playing softball -- catching, throwing and hitting.

Like former major league pitcher Jim Abbott, Caitlin catches the ball in her glove, quickly transfers the glove to her other arm, and then throws the ball.

She started teaching herself the process in tee ball.

"Because I was so young, it became a natural thing for me to try and work out," she said. "I don't think I ever necessarily realized how much a struggle it was. I got a lot of advice from my dad (Barry) when I was younger and from all my coaches along the way."

Caitlin batted second, where she led the team in sacrifices while playing center field for her North Hunterdon High School varsity team last season. That program has been to the sectional finals five times since 2006.

She hopes to contribute in the same way for Hall of Fame coach Perry Peterson, who says the twins have made a smooth transition into the Barrington program with their teammates.

"I took her out to the Fields of Dreams and played catch with her last fall," said Barrington senior shortstop Erin Ward. "I was blown away. It seems so natural for her. She has been doing it for so long you wouldn't even notice her doing it (transfer). And she has a cannon for an arm."

Returning first baseman Katie Dehnert also noticed Caitlin's strong throwing ability.

"She's very accurate," said Dehnert, who along with Ward started last season. "She doesn't even have to crow hop to make the throw from right field to third base or home. "

With years of practice, Caitlin has mastered fielding.

Once she catches the ball with her left hand, she transfers the glove and ball to her right arm. She then takes her left hand, grabs the ball from the glove and throws it. The whole routine takes less than two seconds.

"You'd be kind of nervous that she was going to drop it out with the transfer, but she never does," Dehnert said. "Honestly, you don't even notice it, she is so handy doing everything, you can't even tell in her daily activities."

Caitlin even pitched for the North Hunterdon junior varsity before moving up to the varsity. She was the ace for her travel softball team and her fastball gets up to 55 mph.

Dehnert said she has a cousin in New Jersey who played against Caitlin and her sister in New Jersey.

"My cousin told me they're going to bring a lot to the table and will really help us," Dehnert said.

Caitlin was truly impressed with the quality of the Barrington softball program.

"Caitlin was overwhelmed when she got here," Peterson said. "She shared with me that she wished she could have always been here. She said what she saw here was just amazing."

Meanwhile, Caitlin has been an amazing inspiration for her peers.

"She has probably helped me more over the years than I've helped her," said her sister. "I've lived with her my entire life and she probably does things better than I."

Caitlin plans to study law or biology.

"I entertained the idea of playing in college but I've always wanted to go to a big college, so I'll probably just do some kind of club thing," she said. "I'll probably study biology and law. It's just a general interest. I always knew I wanted to do something in law. Nothing else really interested me."

It was softball that interested Caitlin the most as a child even though she played basketball, soccer and swam.

She said the hardest part to learn and execute is probably the transfer of the ball.

"Just getting a smooth transition," she said. "Getting the ball out of the glove and then gripping it properly. And figuring out new ways to hit. I'm just trying to make contact with the ball and putting it in play."

The move to Illinois was not all that life-changing for the twins, whose younger brother Tyler plays hockey while studying at a boarder school in Minnesota.

"I kind of enjoyed the idea of starting over," said Jennifer, who plans on studying architecture. "It's a good experience since we're going to college next year and that's like starting over in a new place again. I think we may end up going to different colleges."

So this could be the twins final year attending the same school.

And Peterson couldn't be happier to be the beneficiary.

"It's pretty amazing," Peterson said of Caitlin's abilities. "It's a neat thing. She works hard at practice and has a positive attitude."

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