Local Sports: Paige Simpson is a tenacious softball player

Paige Simpson isn’t about to let a bump in the road affect her life goals.

The 15-year-old was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis close to 18 months ago, but she’s working her way through that with the same determination she shows on the softball field.

“It’s something I can’t worry about … I just have to go on,” said the star shortstop with the Red Deer U16 Rage.

The arthritis was discovered when Paige went for braces.

“I told them my jaw was cracking and their imaging showed something and they sent me for tests. I had an MRI at the Children’s Hospital which showed the inflammation.”

Like it would anyone, she said the diagnoses set her back a bit.

“I was confused more than anything,” she said. “But I started taking medicine (pills in the morning and evening and a shot each week) and it doesn’t really affect me.

“It may be a bit annoying if I wasn’t taking the medicine, but overall I’m fortunate compared to a lot of other people. It could have been a lot worse.”

Paige indicated the doctors said it could possibly go away and that the inflammation has went down since she started taking her medicine.

“It’s still mild inflammation but getting better,” she added.

With the medicine, Paige can concentrate on continuing her softball career, which has her on the road to an elite level.

She played a bit of baseball when she was younger but got into softball full time in Grade 4 in Elnora, where she attended the Little League softball champions in Victoria with the Elnora Eagles.

She joined the Red Deer Rage program at the U14 level.

The U14 team won provincial bronze her first year and finished fifth her second. She was also picked up by the U16 team to compete at the nationals. This year the U16 Rage won provincials and competed at the Canadians last weekend in Calgary. While the team didn’t reach the playoffs, it was good experience, according to Simpson, who played with Zone 4 at the Alberta Summer Games.

“Getting to play the last few years against high level competition helps you develop,” said

Paige attended Elnora school through Grade 8, took Grade 9 in Delburne, and will attend St. Joe’s High School in Red Deer and attend the baseball and softball academy this fall.

She will join her brother, Cleary, who plays with the Red Deer Carstar Braves midget baseball team, at St. Joe’s.

They live near Pine Lake and will drive in each day.

“It will be fun to travel together,” she said. “We work out a lot in our basement at home and we’ve become close through it all and help each other out a lot.”

It’s a ball family as their mother, Tricia, played softball and they have a younger brother who plays baseball.

Paige says she’s looking forward to joining the academy.

“It’s exciting to be able to get reps in each day and get a chance to play more during the winter.”

Paige did travel to the States with a team out of Saskatoon last winter, but won’t this year.

“From what I understand we’ll be going to Spokane, possibly a couple of times, with the academy team,” she said.

Paige also plays a number of high school sports and was involved in hockey.

“I played bantam AAA (girls) hockey in Red Deer up until last year when I went with Saskatoon. I didn’t have the time to do both.”

Besides she loves softball.

“I fell in love with it early on. I like the fact it goes by quickly and you have to get over your failures right away. It’s super competitive and you have to be in the game the whole time, there’s no time to let your mind wander.”

Playing shortstop keeps her in the game.

“I pitch some times but mainly shortstop.”

Paige feels her defence is her strength, although she’s coming off another solid year at the plate.

She’s considered one of the premier players in the province at her age group and will continue to work on her game, with a U.S. scholarship in mind.

‘That’s a goal for sure. and being at St. Joe’s will help that. I’ve made a video already, but really don’t know all the ins and outs yet. They will have more knowledge when it comes to that as they’ve been through it.”

Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame who can be reached at danrode@shaw.ca

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