IUS pitcher overcomes handicap

IUS Horizon

Charlee “C.J.” Combs
Charlee “C.J.” Combs

One member of the IUS softball team is blind in her left eye. Charlee “C.J.” Combs, English junior, can only see with her right eye.

Seeing is especially difficult since her right eye has 20/60 vision.

“I play as if I wasn’t blind,” she said. “I compare myself to others too much when I play softball. I can’t cover a lot of ground myself, so I rely on my teammates.”

She said she can’t see the ball until it’s near her. Depth perception, the ability to see movement clearly, requires two eyes.

Combs said the toughest part is hitting the ball. She said it’s hard to see the pitcher’s movements.

“I wouldn’t say I’m happy about it, but it makes me who I am,” she said. “I’ve been disappointed in myself, but I bounce back. Seeing the team come together helps me.”

She said she is the jokester of the team and the one who gives most of the pep-talks in team huddles.

Sara Hornung, advertising junior, is one of Combs’ teammates. Hornung said Combs knows how to cheer the whole team up.

Hornung also said that Combs is always positive and is a great player.

Todd Buckingham, IUS softball coach, said Combs is a leader. He said she’s the hardest worker on the team.

“She has her intangibles,” Buckingham said. “When I say that, I mean she’s not the strongest or fastest player, but she has something about her. She has a lot of heart and a good hustle.”

This is Combs’ first year one the IUS softball team and also her first year at IU Southeast.

She graduated from East Central High School in Sunman, Ind., in 2006. She played softball all four years of high school.

Her first college was Central Florida Community College. She spent a year there and transferred to Kalamazoo Community College in Kalamazoo, Mich.

While she was on the softball team there, she first met Buckingham, who became Combs’ coach when she transferred to IU Southeast this year.

Buckingham said Combs is a big part of the softball program here.

“I’m floored that she’s been able to do what she does so well,” he said.

Combs said she wants to get an English degree with an emphasis in literature. She said she wasn’t sure why she picked that concentration.

She said she tried to think of her favorite class in high school, which was English class.

Combs lives in the dorms, which she said is very convenient since she has access to the Activities Building, where she also works as an hourly employee.

“It’s really convenient that I’m so close to the fitness center,” Combs said. “I practice pitching for an hour or more four or five days a week.”

The softball team’s fall season has already wrapped up. Combs said they practiced for two or three hours every day of the week during the fall.

The team is on break until the spring semester, andCombs said she hates the off-seasons.

“You couldn’t burn me out on softball,” she said. “I chose to play softball because it’s the only sport where I can play and forget about everything else.”

She said she would like to get stronger in time for the upcoming season. She said she would also like to be able to cover more ground.

The IUS softball team currently has 26 players. Buckingham said he wanted the team to have a deeper and stronger defense.

He said the team itself is solid, but would like to push every aspect of the game a bit harder.He said there’s no specific weak spot in the group.

They won a regional conference for the past two years. They even made it to nationals last year.
Buckingham and Combs both said their goal is to make it to nationals again this year.

By JOSEPH DEVER
Staff Writer
jwdever@ius.edu