HERRIMAN — When Libby Parkinson takes the field for the Herriman softball team, her coaches consider more than whether she is throwing strikes or hitting home runs.
“It’s a challenge as a coach,” said Herriman coach Heidi McKissick of the junior pitcher, who manages Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes while helping the Herriman softball team to a No. 1 ranking. “We just have to ask her, ‘Where are your levels?’ Do you need a juice box?’"
In fact, ‘Juice Box’ is Parkinson’s nickname because the individual containers of apple juice are her weapon of choice in battling a chronic condition she’s managed since she was 9.
“I had no idea what it was,” Parkinson said of how she felt when doctors told her of the diagnosis. “It was shocking at first. I had no idea what I was getting into.”
Exercise can make managing diabetes more difficult — and more critical — but Parkinson began playing softball before she started worrying about her blood-sugar levels.
“At first it was hard, for sure,” said the junior. “But I’ve had it for long enough, lived with it long enough, that it’s really not hard. It’s something I have to deal with, but everybody has their own things to deal with. And honestly, I feel blessed to have this.”
Managing something like Diabetes takes discipline.
“It’s crazy,” Parkinson said. “When I was first diagnosed, well, you just don’t realize how many things you just put in your mouth. Having to keep track was hard at first, but now it’s like second nature. When I was first diagnosed, it seemed like this big thing. But it’s gotten a lot easier.”
In fact, Parkinson said modern technology has simplified the management of her condition, even as the demands of her sport increase. She wears an insulin pump and glucose monitor, and she knows her body better than most teenagers.
“Sometimes we’ve played eight games in a day,” she said. “Those days get hard, but I know I just have to have snacks or juice boxes.”
That sounds easy, but sometimes it’s a chore.
“Sometimes when you’ve been working out for that long, you don’t want to eat,” she said. “But it’s pretty much essential for me. And the monitor alerts me when my levels get low. It also alerts my parents.”
She said her parents worried when she was first diagnosed that sports might complicate managing her Diabetes.
“It was worrisome, but I knew when I first got diagnosed it would be a big deal,” she said. “The one thing our family decided was that it would never keep me from doing something.”
McKissick said managing something as complicated as Diabetes might be tough for some teens, but Parkinson is very proactive.
“She’s really responsible,” McKissick said. “She takes care of it. It’s just another challenge.”
And the chronic condition hasn’t even slowed Parkinson down most days.
The junior is batting .385 with a team-leading 15 RBIs as she and teammate April Visser are tied for the most home runs with six each.
“She is a gamer,” McKissick said. “It’s game on when she’s out there. She loves to be in charge. She’d pitch every game if we’d let her.”
Parkinson, who has five wins and four losses (all to out-of-state teams), said she’s always wanted to pitch.
“I started out pitching, and then I had a coach tell me, ‘This isn’t for you’,” she said with a slight laugh. “But then I had a coach that kind of put a little faith in me, and I just kept doing what I loved and it worked out.”
She said she relishes being in a position that can impact the game so decisively. Parkinson, who also has two saves for the Mustangs, said the pressure doesn’t get to her because she has faith in her teammates.
“I do love a crowd,” she admits with another laugh. “The pressure, it can be hard, especially in big games. But luckily for me, I have a solid defense and great team to take the pressure off. I just love it.”
McKissick said Parkinson’s strength in the circle is ball movement.
“She has a really good changeup, and she’s got a really good curveball,” McKissick said. “She takes control of the game.”
At a tournament in Nevada, she hit three home runs in four at-bats.
“She’s been hitting like crazy this season,” McKissick said. “She’s outgoing, fun and she loves the game. She’s a friend to everyone. She’s a dream.”