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Order out of chaos
Brittany Wisner has overcome a nightmare childhood to be a standout member of the Bainbridge fastpitch team.
When people talk about Brittany Wisner, one of the first things they mention is how hard she works and how much she talks which is quite a bit.
Shes loud, but in a good way, teammate and friend Lindsay Willmann said.
Head coach Liz McCloskey said she was impressed with her from the moment she appeared on the field, even to the consternation of others.
Some people questioned my thought of putting her on varsity because she was very outspoken because some people perceive that as being cocky and having a big head, she said. But thats just her being a leader and loving the game and putting everything she has into it.
Currently, Brittany is a starter for the Bainbridge fastpitch team and has been since her first game as a freshman at second base, quickly moving over to catcher and ensconcing herself at the position en route to being a two-year captain, a two-time All-Metro and All-Kitsap News Group selection.
That recognition comes from how hard she works at improving her overall game, from hitting off the pitching machine to fielding endless grounders to work on her overall fitness level.
Shes even taken part in Bodylink of Poulsbos Frappier Acceleration training program designed to improve speed and power in athletes.
That (training program) is like a Marine Corps boot camp, her grandfather Max said. (But) anything she goes after she goes all out.
Her willingness to go all out stems from her personality.
Im always pushing myself to be better, she said.
Shes also her own toughest critic, continually finding little things that she feels she can improve on.
Even though shes done well in high school she posted a line of a .389 batting average, a .455 on-base percentage and a .639 slugging percentage her freshman year, then a line of .309/.434/.481 her sophomore year she says shes never satisfied with what she does.
I could hit a triple or be 4 for 4 and theres always something I can do thats better, Brittany said.
McCloskey said she does have to calm her down from time to time so as not to get herself down, but is impressed with how hard she works all the time.
She wants to improve every day, she said. She wants to learn something new every day.
I think she would be in the gym 24 hours a day if someone was with her.
Willmann feels her work ethic helps motivate those around her to improve their own game.
You see her working hard and you think maybe I should do that too, she said.
Her grandmother Ann said she completely immerses herself into the game.
She loves this game more than any person I have ever seen in my life, she said. Shes very motivated. Very motivated.
She has her mind made up. She has goals set for herself and what she wants to do.
To that extent, shes written a list thats two pages long and filled with every goal she can think of, which she is constantly working on and improving.
Softball has always been my passion, Brittany said. I was swinging a bat as soon as I could walk.
Some would observe that Brittanys love of the game comes not only naturally, but genetically.
Both Ann and Max played baseball (Max played professionally for four years, signing with Detroit when he was 17) and both coached Little League on the island for many years.
Ann was also the JV softball coach at BHS from 1983 to 1987 when they played slowpitch for five years, umpired for many years and her and Frank Willmann started the Blazers, a local select team.
Her daughter, Heidi, was a three-sport star at Bainbridge High, playing soccer, basketball and softball for all four years.
Baseballs in the Wisner blood, Ann said.
Ann was her coach when Brittany started with tee ball when she was five, and moved to Little League soon thereafter. But she became truly enamored with the game when she was in the seventh grade.
She started at second base for many years, but started catching three years ago when there wasnt a good selection of catchers on her select team.
Every pitch was a passed ball, she said. So one day at practice I said Hey Coach, let me catch. So I tried it (and) found out I wasnt half bad.
The next year I was on a different select team not as a hitter, I was a bench player - but by the end of the season I was batting third and catching every game.
What is impressive about Brittany catching is that she calls her own game a rarity on the high school. Most coaches call pitches from the dugout, with only a few catchers calling their own game.
But McCloskey said she was comfortable letting Brittany call her own game as McCloskey did when she played for Bainbridge from 1996 to 1999.
She does a great job and she probably does it better than I could, she said. I never hesitated to let her do it.
Ann said she religiously studies a three-page handout one of her select coaches gave to her.
Brittany said its very important for her to call her own game.
Its my game, she said. I know my pitcher better than anyone else does. Im right there and I can see what the batter does.
I have confidence in myself and I think I call a pretty good game.
Willmann is appreciative of having someone like Brittany behind the plate.
If you dont have a good relationship, its not going to go smoothly at all, she said. You have to rely on each other and trust each other during the games.
Thanks to that trust, work and talent, Brittanys at the forefront of a Spartan team thats 8-0 and looking like a contender for a state trophy.
I didnt know what to expect coming into the season, she said. But weve got a good group of girls and everyone works hard. We all have that same goal, we all have that same dream. We all want to get somewhere.
But to get to this point, shes taken a long journey through some hard times that would have taken down a lesser person.
Ive experienced more in my 16 years than a lot of people do in their entire life. Wisner said.
Shes not exaggerating.
A dark past
Ask a question of Brittanys personable grandmother Ann, such as, Was Brittany always an outgoing child? and youll get a long and lively answer, but one that comes as a surprise.
Brittany came to live with us (Ann and her husband, Max) at five, she said. She had a tremendous(ly) horrible, horrible life.
She was terribly abused as a child, Ann continued.
The details come, but its not easy to do when one looks back on a past full of painful memories that cant always be neatly tucked away as the years go by.
Born in 1991 in Seattle, Wisner lived for her first six years what can simply be called a living hell.
My living situation was awful, she said. My mother was addicted to meth, heroin, cocaine... my father was (an addict and) a raging alcoholic. Theres huge drug addiction (problems) and alcoholism on my moms side of the family.
It just never stopped. It was (happening) all the time still is.
When her parents werent fighting or physically and emotionally abusing her, they were out of their apartment looking to score drugs, often leaving Brittany to fend for herself.
I remember a lot, she said, declining further details of the abuse. (But) it was just normal to me. It was what I was born into.
Thats how I thought childhood was supposed to be, I guess.
Ann wouldnt go on the record with details either, but what few things she did reveal would make anyone sick.
Shes just had a hard life, she said. She hated adults and didnt trust them because the only ones shes ever known were drug addicts.
She was put into some perilous situations, Ann continued.
Finally, Ann and Max had had enough, and went to court to fight their son for custody of Brittany.
For two and a half years, Brittanys grandparents and parents battled it out in court.
It was a fight, Ann said. Her parents were fighting us. It was really hard.
We have total permanent custody of her, Ann continued. But her parents still have their parental rights.
When Ann and Max finally brought Brittany into their home, the resulting culture shock was a bit much for her to handle at first.
I had people that made me dinner, she said. That was like, whoa! That was a big deal.
I had people tuck me in at night, Brittany said. It was a big deal for me and I wasnt used to it. At first it was very weird and I wasnt used to it. I would throw fits.
I think she was extremely happy to be with us because we werent strangers, but she just had a real mistrust of people, Max said. She didnt like anybody and she wanted to crawl into her shell.
Its been really hard, Ann said. Imagine losing your parents at age five and never seeing them again. And all of a sudden your new parents have white hair.
All the changes made Brittany very quiet, a complete change from the outgoing and opinionated person she is now.
I was a very shy child for two years, she said. Which is weird, because you look at me (now) and you dont think I was ever a shy kid.
Ann and Max got Brittany into counseling to help her deal with the after-effects of the abuse, and the nine years in therapy helped ease the pain.
There were teachers that also reached out. Kathy Dunn in kindergarten, Sharon Pratt out at Wilkes, they just paid attention to her not in an overbearing way, but in a comforting way, Max said.
Those teachers helped Brittany come out of her shell.
Ann remembers how excited she was to get up in front of the class and tell a story or read poetry.
She just loved it, she said. When Max and I would come to listen to her, she was so excited to get up there and tell a story. She just loved it.
And there was a youth minister that became like a dad to Brittany. He was the greatest guy, she said. He taught me everything I know.
Her faith has become a strong part of her life, along with softball, helping her firm up her beliefs and morals and get her through some hard times.
Its also helped Brittany deal with what she went through at an early age.
Ive just always accepted the fact that God has control and God has a plan for me, she said. He knows what Hes doing and I trust that.
Though she was an only child for much of her life, she now has a little brother in Jaden, now four, who she spends time with when she can and enjoys a great relationship with.
Brittany also has a half-sister in 2-year-old Sierra, but she hasnt met her yet.
He (Jaden) keeps me going, Brittany said. Hes a little sparkplug very cute kid. I love him to death. We have a strong bond.
I dont get to see him that often, but when I do get to see him, its nice.
But she doesnt see her parents anymore.
Her dad got clean after Jadens birth, but recently got into some legal trouble and she hasnt heard from him. She and her dad tried to build a relationship when she was 10 and again when she was 12, but he was in and out of her life.
When she was 13, she was old enough to make her own decision about who she wanted to see, so she went and told them she didnt want to see her dad anymore.
Ann said she hasnt seen her mom since she was six and doesnt know where her dad is now. She thinks he may be homeless.
Brittany said shes unsure if shell ever have a relationship with them or even talk to them again.
Thats something Im still dealing with, she said. I want to let go of that, but a lot of me is still very angry and isnt quite over it yet. I dont know if thats something I can deal with.
I just dont know yet.
A bright future
What she does know is that she wont go down that road, using her past as motivation to better herself and her future.
Its that desire to be better than anything that they (her parents) ever were, Brittany said. Be the better daughter, better parent, better friend, better student, better anything than they ever were.
Not only does she help others around her improve, but she helps people in general deal with their problems.
Many come to her for advice from how to handle someones drinking problem to dealing with a divorce to smaller things that can trip anyone up.
Teammate and friend Haylee Baker said shes formed a bond with Brittany over her own past (she grew up in a single-parent home for most of her life) and their similar personalities.
Whenever we go somewhere with our select teams, well just sit in the hot tub and talk for hours about our lives, she said. Thats how we bonded.
She keeps everybody up, Baker said. Shes pretty upbeat. I think what she went through has helped her be a strong person.
Willmann said she also confides in her as well.
Shes a really understanding person, she said. If you ask her to keep something a secret, shell do it. Shes really trustworthy.
Brittany said shes fine with helping others out.
Helping others and giving back it takes the focus off myself and makes me feel better, she said. People tell me Im a natural leader.
No matter what group shes around, no matter where she goes, everyone just gravitates to Brittany, she said.
But she said shes got a big support system, from her group of friends to her grandparents.
I owe everything to them, she said. If they wouldnt have rescued me, I probably wouldnt have made it through that living situation.
She also appreciates McCloskey, who she feels is the big sister she never had.
She inspires me, Brittany said. Shes always willing to help me no matter what. She cares about me more than almost any adult ever has and its something Im so grateful for and I probably dont deserve.
I would not be the person I am and I definitely wouldnt be the softball player I am now.
Ann said she and Max are proud of what Brittany has accomplished in her life and how far shes come.
Max and I worked really, really hard (with her and) this is what we get, she said. Just by giving her all the confidence in the world and the patience and the understanding and believing in her shes just this little angel that fell from heaven. She really is. Shes a great kid.
Soon, shell be off to college (Whitworth is interested) and shes thinking about a career in communications, journalism or teaching.
She uses her past for motivation rather than dwelling on it and letting it dominate her life.
I just really focus on the present, she said. I always work hard in the now.
I know I will be 500 times the mother that my mom has been (and) ever was. Im not going down that route.
And softball will always be there whether she keeps playing or eventually coaches somewhere.
She even feels the effects when she goes without playing for a while.
I get cranky, Im in a bad mood all the time, she said. Everybody notices. Softball keeps me happy. When Im on the softball field, thats when Im the happiest.