GC Sports: Callie's World -- Dawson's Callie Marberry, a multisport star, has spent a lifetime beating the odds

May 24—DAWSON — Callie Marberry is a miracle.

Yes, a miracle.

No, this was not a fireworks, band-playing, banner waving journey. Callie's miracle is a slow, tedious, life-long fight, fueled by her dogged determination and no-quit laser focus and self-disciplined motivation to move ahead one brutal baby-step at a time.

And she took every step in the dark — in a fuzzy, blurred world, forging ahead, reaching and looking for a light at the end of her own personal ravaged tunnel.

"When Callie was 3-years old, a nurse told me, 'Your daughter is blind in one eye," said Callie's mother, Amy Elrod. "Doctors told me she would never play sports."

That's why when Callie signed a letter of intent this spring to accept a softball scholarship to Lyon College in Batesville, Ark., both mother and daughter cried — laughed and cried together.

They've been together, hooked at the heart by love for each other, sharing every tear and every disappointment together — and celebrating every remarkable success with joy as Callie conquered one impossible hurdle at a time on a road filled with heartache and littered with tears.

That road began when Callie was an infant.

"When Callie was six months old we took her to a local pediatric ophthalmologist in Waco because my mom thought she may have an eye issue," he mother said.

"Strabismus and Amblyopia run in my family on my dad's side. Every second child born from my dad's side from his children and his grandchildren have some form of it," she said.

"Callie's was however unique as her eyes never showed to really move. We just noticed her tilting her head or moving to see things," she said. "At that appointment, the doctor determined her tear ducts were clogged making her look at things differently and she had surgery at six-months to unclog them."

Amblyopia makes playing sports nearly impossible because it takes away your depth perception, vital to play any sport because you need two working eyes to determine depth perception — also referred to as stereopsis or 3D vision. You will need two properly working eyes— that work together—in order to have depth perception.

Callie had one good eye.

Imagine trying to hit a softball with movement that's coming at you at 50-to-60 mph, or measuring the height and speed of a volleyball sailing above the net and leaping and timing your contact with the ball to produce a hard-hit kill or to block the shot without depth perception.

Basketball? That's almost impossible, because without depth perception you have no idea how far away the basket is when you release your shot. That's Callie's World, a world she has conquered over the years.

Callie began her long journey in sports trying to play Pre-K softball at Lorena.

"We thought we were in the clear until she entered Pre-K in Lorena and the nurse called me and said she thought Callie was completely blind in one eye," Elrod said. "The nurse said Callie failed the eye screener miserably and was really concerned.

"We immediately took her back to the same doctor because insurance said we had to," Elrod said. "It was determined she had 20/400 vision in her right eye (20/400 vision implies an individual must be 20 feet away from an object in order to see it clearly, whereas a person with normal vision can see the same object with clarity from 400 feet away — and is considered legally blind.) And determined Callie had 20/15 vision in the left eye and they diagnosed her with non-reversible refractive amblyopia."

The amazing thing is before that diagnosis and the failed peripheral vision test, Callie had played some kiddie softball and was a good player at Lorena.

"The doctor told me to get her out of sports immediately because she will only be frustrated from failing," Elrod said. "He said to put her into things like piano.

"Callie heard this and told me on the drive home she did not like that doctor and she was going to play sports like her brother. We started eye therapy immediately."

The eye therapy consisted of patching her good eye for two-to-four hours a day when she was using her eye. That meant Callie wore a patch on her eye at school, which created a horrible situation. The kids made fun of Callie and called her "Pirate," and Callie cried a lot during the patching.

"Callie was made fun of and hated it," her mother said. "At night she would purposely put herself to sleep in order not to have to use her bad eye cause it hurt. After two years of fighting patching and not getting anywhere we went to see Dr. Helen Hittner in Houston at the Robert Cizik Eye Clinic.

"We heard she was one of the best in Texas," Elrod said. "She was the best doctor for Callie's case in the area and agreed to see Callie even though Callie was not an infant or baby, which was what she normally only saw.

"Callie was different from the beginning and Hittner knew it." Elrod said. "So Hittner did a trial with her called contact therapy with atropine eye drops. Callie was stubborn and hated patching and Hittner had a theory and wanted to test it out on Callie and we agreed."

The patching and the cruel treatment from the kids at school finally ended. Hittner used atropine drops to blur Callie's vision in her good eye for four years, which stopped her brain from using that eye. Her brain was forced to use only the vision she could see with her bad eye.

Callie played sports with monovision (the use of one eye) and fought hard to improve and get better despite the handicap of having one eye that was legally blind.

Her mother timed the ball to the plate and would tell Callie how long it took the pitch to reach the plate and taught Callie how to time the ball. Callie eventually learned to time it herself.

There was nothing easy about her progress. Callie always had to play up an age division in softball against kids older than her because she threw harder and hit harder than most her age.

"Callie learned to time it herself from the release of the ball. She always had to play up an age division in softball against kids older than her because she threw harder and hit harder than most her age," her mother said. "All the while Callie still continued to play rec volleyball, basketball, cheer, barrel racing, goat tying, pole bending, participated in cooking clubs, 4-H and FFA."

Hittner also saw improvement by changing the contacts with corrected lenses and Callie's eyesight reached 20/100 with corrected lenses. She stayed that way for several years all the while improving in her sports.

As a freshman at Dawson High School, she lettered in six sports, and won All-District and All-Golden Circle, including All-Academic awards, every season in high school.

She was recently named the 2004 District 16-2A Softball Most Valuable Defensive Player for Dawson's playoff Bulldog team, where, thanks to her mother, Callie taught herself to become a switch hitter. She made the change after struggling her sophomore year and has become successful because she sees the ball better from the left side of the plate.

She never had that option in basketball, where she faced her biggest challenge, but learned to be successful over the years by using muscle-memory to decide how to release and shoot the ball and attain accuracy despite seeing a blurry basket. She literally spent hours in the gym shooting alone to improve.

After everything she had been through, Callie met yet another brutal obstacle when on September 21, 2023 Callie was in a horrible car accident on Highway 31.

"She was hurt so badly that the doctors told her all sports were done for her," her mother said. "She was going to be out 12 to 18 months. She was devastated. She was leading in almost all stats in district volleyball in many areas then she was pulled for the season because of her injuries. She also had many softball tryouts set up for college that she had to cancel."

For Callie, it just meant another comeback —albeit a different one — Callie never waivered in storming back from the accident.

"She was determined to come back," her mother said, "and she did! She came back and played the final volleyball game of the season and played in the entire volleyball playoff game.

"She even did her own physical therapy to get back faster. She was hurting but she had to do it for herself," her mother said. "I tried to make her sit out from basketball but she was determined to get strong for softball so she played and made the All-Golden Circle first team in basketball and all the All-District Softball first-team."

Callie also played tennis this spring and reached the 2A Region Tournament in mixed doubles along with her partner Brant Boatright.

Callie is living her best life and has her fingers in a long list of pies.

She and has more than 40 college credit hours with a 3.75 GPA. She has always been named to the All-District, All-Academic teams for volleyball, basketball and softball all four years at Dawson.

Callie was the class homecoming queen, a FFA Officer, and Heart of Texas District Officer. She showed animals, competed in many UIL, CDE, and other events for FFA and academics, and a member of state debate team two years in a row. She competed in four sports for four years at Dawson (she did not do cheer or track her senior year).

She competed in track in two events, qualified for the Area and Region meets, made it to the Area and Regional tennis meet, and acted in the One-Act Play at Dawson for three years in a row.

She also volunteered to help out DAYSA softball and basketball when she had time. She also volunteered many hours with the FFA to visit children in hospitals, show them around the state and local fairs, and rang the bell at Christmas time for 4-H.

Turns out the girl who was told she could not see a future, ended up seeing brighter and bolder futures than most, with a never-quit energy and a brand of unique courage and compassion for others.

"I never wanted anyone to feel sorry for me," Callie said. "I'm happy and excited to go to Lyon and play softball. That was a goal of mine, and I really want to do well and go beyond that and play at a Division I school."

Baylor's softball coach already knows about Callie, so I wouldn't bet against her ending up playing for Division I softball at Baylor in Waco — the very city where she was first told she would never play sports.

Callie Marberry is a miracle.

Yes, a Miracle!