Kiri Jiaying Evans’ right foot is 3 1/2 sizes smaller than her left, and the leg below the knee has withered to about half the size of the other. But the Belleville West Belleville, IL) junior’s aggressive play on the softball field gives no hint of the partially corrected clubfoot concealed beneath layers of athletic tape and a black brace that laces up past her ankle. She has come a long way on those uneven feet.
Kiri was left in a swaddle on the doorstep of a police station in China’s Guangdong Province and spent her first 3 1/2 years living in a Shenzhen City orphanage. She was taught to speak the native language there and to walk on a clubfoot that was bent sideways from the ankle. Chuck and Marti Evans, of Belleville, adopted Kiri in 2002 and raised her with an older sister and brother. Kiri has withstood the pain of corrective surgeries and the hurtful words of middle school classmates who bullied her for her Asian looks and a limp that’s still obvious, but only when she’s not running.
The dusty softball diamonds of the metro-east are where the 5-foot-1, 17-year-old is the physical superior to most others. She ranks among the region’s batting leaders and could have a future at the Division I college level if she wants it.
It’s a contradiction best appreciated by those who have seen how Kiri’s skinny right calf tapers so drastically away from her knee, yet can still supply enough speed for her to stretch a single into a double. They still wonder, though, how an otherwise reserved teenager develops the drive to compete with such ferocity.
“That’s the thing. She has that physical disability and she still outplays and is better than many softball players,” said Liz Bingheim, Kiri’s best friend on the Maroons. “She just works hard all the time — in softball, in the weight room and in the classroom.
“But I seriously can’t always understand how someone can be so committed and so tough in every single aspect. She has had to adapt and, I think, it’s probably a quality she has acquired over time through the things she’s had to go through.”
Kiri tells us that I WILL RUN MYSELF TO THE GROUND UNTIL I’M TOLD TO STOP … IT’S NOT MY NATURE TO COME UP TO YOU AND SAY ‘HEY, I CAN’T DO THIS.’ OTHERS MAY LOOK AT ME AND THINK ‘OH, SHE’S USING IT AS AN EXCUSE.’ SO I’M NOT GOING TO STOP UNTIL YOU TELL ME TO STOP.