FARRAGUT, Tenn. (WATE) – The April sun is beaming brighter, hotter than normal as Avery Flatflord sits in the dugout with her hand inside a half empty bag of potato chips. Strike three. She quickly jumps up wiping the chip residue on her pants grabs mask and glove and heads to the field.
With a pair of buns sitting atop her head she’s hardly a formidable sight to anyone, aside from those who enter the batters box while she’s in the circle.
“She’s tough and she’s persistent,” junior Vivian Bowles said of her teammate. “She doesn’t like losing, she never has.”
Avery began to play softball at the age of five in large part because her father wanted her to play ‘Dads sport’ instead of soccer. A few years later she gravitated toward pitching in part because she knew she’d get distracted in the outfield but mostly because if someone was going to decide a game it was going to be her.
“I love just having the game held in your hand and the control you have as a pitcher to set the tempo of the game,” Avery explained. “I just really loved being in the circle and being involved every single pitch.”
It shows, the recently named Division IV pitcher of the year is just a junior but is already making history at Farragut High School setting the new seven inning record for most strikeouts in a game and recently pitching a no-hitter.
“Anything Avery chooses to put her mind to she’s always dominated, she’s always been very strong-willed and very independent,” Lynsey Flatford, Avery’s mother, said of her daughter. “If she chooses to do it, she gives it her all and in pitching it pays off.”
Each batter is a new battle, but Avery’s battle started well before she stepped out of the dugout. Hers began at 18 months old when she was diagnoses with cystic fibrosis.
“It was the first time I wasn’t six feet tall and bulletproof,” Chuck Flatford, Avery’s father, said. “To find out that what your little girl has been going through has a name to what’s been going on with her.”
Avery had been given a 33 year life expectancy at diagnosis.
Chuck and Lynsey Flatford made a choice then, and never waivered, Avery wasn’t going to spend those 33 years in a bubble she was going to life them to the fullest.
“In my mind if she’s not going to live a full life it should be a normal life and it should be a life that she will have greatly enjoyed, Lynsey said. “It was important to me that if she died before we did she could say thank you mom and dad for my normal, happy life instead of my bubbled life, my protected life where I didn’t get to do the things that kids do.”
Avery lives life. She attends school, jokes with her friends and goes to prom like any other teenager. But the start and end to those days full of laughter are focused on her diagnosis. So while she scrolls through Tik Tok and Instagram Avery does her treatment to combat against her Cystic Fibrosis.
“She does chest physiotherapy which is a chest that she puts on to break up the mucus in her lungs, Lynsey explained. “Then she does a couple of different inhale medicines through an inhaler or through a nebulizer. That together, if done correctly, takes about 45 minutes if you space everything out and then she takes all the pills and she does that twice a day so she does that in the morning and she does that at night.”
She takes roughly 40 pills a day depending on how much she eats, and she has to eat a lot. Avery eats between 4,000 and 5,000 calories a day a necessity for her to keep her energy up and fight off infections. It’s not uncommon to see Avery sneak in a snack in between strikeouts.
“She likes very salty foods so she always has her bag of lays potato chips,” Farragut Softball head coach Nick Greene said. “She likes pickles.”
Gamedays can look a little different for the Admirals Ace too, she has to be hyper aware of what her body needs that day – which can mean rushing hope to get in a treatment on day she isn’t feeling her best and having extra equipment on standby to make sure she’s able to operate at peak performance.
“I have to make sure I have my inhaler because my lungs out on the mound can sometimes get exhausted from the repetitive pitching,” Avery explained. “Sometimes I even go home and do a treatment before a game because I’m not feeling my best. You gotta make sure you’re healthy all the time.”
Her preparation is different, but when Avery steps in the circle she’s not defined as a player that has Cystic Fibrosis – she’s known instead as one of the best pitchers in East Tennessee.
“She’s like I’m out here to do my job and my job only and the one thing that I have that stops a lot of things (it) won’t stop this,” Bowles said.
Avery is committed to attend Tennessee Tech University where she will pitch for the Golden Eagles softball team. Avery is believed to be the first Division I College Softball player with Cystic Fibrosis.
“I just wanted to use my story as a way to inform people about CF and also encourage other people with CF to live their dreams and not let a disease they were born with distract them from potential success,” Avery said.