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Keen eye on her goal

Lewiston Morning Tribune - 4/13/2017

April 13--Kris Frei has a goal: She wants to someday become an umpire at the Special Olympics.

To put herself in the running, she believes she'll have to work more than 600 softball games -- something she took a giant step toward last spring and summer when the rookie official worked around 100 Lewiston city league softball games.

And entering her second season of umpiring, Frei's enthusiasm regarding her new endeavor led her to travel all the way to Oklahoma this February to attend a national umpiring clinic -- an event where Frei held a distinction: She was the only deaf person there.

"You don't need your hearing to be a good umpire," Frei said in sign language that came through loud and clear to broadcast the message of her life. "I don't want parents of deaf children to hide them," Frei later added. "Let them be out in the world."

Frei certainly has been. The 1985 Lewiston High grad played collegiate softball at a Washington, D.C., school serving the deaf that competes at the NCAA Division III level. And after graduating from Gallaudet University, Frei continued to play softball recreationally -- that is, until she tore up her shoulder about 12 years ago.

Which eventually led to what happened last spring: Eager to reconnect with her favorite sport, Frei visited Lewiston Parks and Recreation Program Coordinator Lynn Welch to inquire about becoming an umpire.

And what happened next?

Welch put it this way: "We're always looking for umpires, so it's nice to have someone come in and be that excited about umpiring."

And how well has she done in her role? While Welch would label Frei as "seeming to have done OK," there's no questioning this: Frei's eager to continue improving, as she showed by attending the Oklahoma clinic, and doing so at her own expense.

"She's blazed her own trail her whole life," Frei's mom, Susan Fagan, said of her daughter, who currently lives on the Palouse in Colfax. "Certainly, a parent wants to take some credit for it, but honestly, I'm not deaf. And Kris is a unique deaf person because she was born into a hearing family," said Fagan, a former Washington state legislator. "All of us know sign language, some of us know more. But she knows how to adapt to her environment."

For Frei, that's meant using every means of communication available while on the diamond -- traditional umpire hand signals, the occasional sign language when a scorekeeper happens to know ASL, even pantomiming.

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Edelman may be contacted at bedelman@lmtribune.com or (208) 848-2277.

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(c)2017 the Lewiston Tribune (Lewiston, Idaho)

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