Local Five-Year-Old Becomes Newest Member of Florida Tech Softball Through Team IMPACT
By Mitchell Praxl, Florida Tech // October 11, 2015
Paula Rieber signs during press conference
BREVARD COUNTY • MELBOURNE, FLORIDA – Every year the Florida Tech softball team welcomes in a class of the new additions.
Most of the time these consist of recently graduated high school players and transfers from other college programs. The newest player, however, is an even more significant addition.
Friday night FIT held a special press conference at the Varsity Training Center to announce the signing of Paula Rieber, a local five-year-old girl from Palm Bay.
Paula suffers from a Congenital Heart Defect known as Tetralogy of Fallot that required her to have open heart surgery just over two weeks after she was born. The condition precludes Paula from being able to play full contact sports, though she does participate in ballet.
Despite this adversity, Paula’s energy and enthusiasm is obvious. Just the other day, Paula was leading some of her new teammates around the infield at Nancy Bottge Field, something that didn’t go unnoticed by her coach.
“As coaches we are always looking to recruit standout players that are going to make a difference in the classroom, on the field and in the community so we spend several hours evaluating,” said head coach Val Silvestrini.
“Sometimes, though, you run into kids like this young lady and after a few minutes you realize that they were meant to be a part of our softball program.”
“I am also considering her to be part of the coaching staff since yesterday we had a couple of kids on the field and she was having them do everything that she said. I wish I could do the same with our players,” Silvestrini joked.
When asked by one of the players why Florida Tech softball was the right team for her, Paula’s answer was short and sweet.
“Because it is always fun,” she said.
Paula’s father, Donald Rieber, is hoping that this new relationship will help his daughter continue to grow.
“I just want to have her be around the players,” he stated.
“I think it will be good for her to feel a part of something and be involved.”
When all of the important questions had been answered, such as Paula’s favorite movie and what snacks she plans to bring on team trips, the fearless youngster flipped the script, posing questions to her teammates.
Among the things on her mind? What everyone’s favorite animal is and what art projects the team likes to do.
The relationship with Paula was made possible by Team IMPACT, a national organization whose mission is to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening and chronic illnesses through the power of team.
Team IMPACT children are drafted on to college athletic teams, local to where they live and, in effect, become official members of the team from Draft Day through to Graduation.
As much as this relationship is aimed to effect Paula, the little girl will have just as much if not more of an impact on her new team.
“It means the world to us to have Paula and her family as a part of our family,” Silvestrini said.
“One of the core values for our team is family and unity and this is a perfect example of that.”
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