Desert Oasis Softball Player Alissa Perkins

Wade Vandervort

Desert Oasis softball player Alissa Perkins bats during a game against Las Vegas High School Wednesday, May 1, 2024.

Alissa Perkins stands in the batter’s box awaiting the pitch.

She’s one of the best hitters on the Desert Oasis High softball team, and there are runners on base. It’s time to do damage, she thinks.

The pitch, though, is wild and hits her. The ball hitting her lower body thumps so loudly that many in the ballpark can hear it and fear for the worst.

But Perkins nonchalantly jogs to first base. Later in the inning she advances to third base, where coach Vanessa Alvarado checks on the well-being of her player.

Perkins’ response: “I didn’t feel it,” Alvarado remembers her saying.

That’s because the pitch ricocheted off Perkins’ prosthetic leg, meaning the thud heard throughout the ballpark also cued Perkins that she had been hit.

The prosthetic is attached at the knee and became loose from being hit. Perkins simply put it back in place — with few noticing — before heading to first base.

“We shared a laugh at that moment,” Alvarado said. “It sounded loud and everyone yelled, ‘Ooh.’ But she was like, ‘Don’t worry, I didn’t feel it.’ ”

Perkins, 14, will receive the Breakthrough Performance award at the Sun Standout Awards on Monday night. The Sun’s annual high school sports awards program honors the best athletes, teams and games of the past prep season. The awards show will be at the South Point Showroom.

The name of the award aptly describes Perkins, who as an infant had her left leg amputated below the knee. She’s arguably the best hitter on the roster and helped the Diamondbacks reach this weekend’s state tournament. She also played junior varsity basketball and freshman volleyball.

“You only get one life, and I want to play sports with mine,” she says. “I love sports.”

No slowing down

Perkins was born missing her left fibula and with her left tibia and femur short and bent. She had amputation surgery at 9 months old and yet was walking after her first birthday.

She hasn’t slowed, despite having multiple surgeries to help support her knee and straighten her leg as she grows.

Her most recent surgery was last July.

In the following month, she was playing volleyball for Desert Oasis, where teammates voted her the Most Valuable Player of the freshman team. It was her initial time trying the sport — because attempting new activities and the thrill of competition has been a constant in her life.

Once the referee blows the whistle to signal the start of the game, it’s athletes competing against athletes, and Perkins has shown to be a capable competitor. She doesn’t back down from a challenge or use competing with a prosthetic as an excuse.

“It doesn’t slow me down. I’ve been playing this way my entire life,” Perkins said.

There have times when Perkins’ left knee pops out of place, she said, because that knee is smaller. It’s happened a few times over the years, forcing her into a short break from competition.

She also joined the Desert Oasis basketball program, where she was the junior varsity team’s Lady Diamondback Award winner. The award is for the athlete who shows the greatest work ethic and commitment to team over individual accolades.

She just wrapped up playing varsity softball, where she pitched and played second base.

It’s rare for a ninth-grader to make a high school varsity team, let alone one that advances to the state tournament. And in this day and age of teenagers focusing on one sport, a three-sport athlete is rare. She also sings in the school choir with her brother, Nicholas.

Perkins’ mentality is different: She simply wants to play.

“Whenever she joins a team, she kind of takes that leadership role pushing other people because, you know, we can all do our very best at all times,” her mom, Tara Perkins, said. “I hope that one day she’ll see in herself as how everybody else sees her, because she doesn’t really take ownership of how good she is.”

Alvarado, a first-year head coach, had the girls take batting practice off the pitching machine during some of the initial practices this year. Only a few were making contact.

Perkins was crushing the ball.

“She’s obviously an amazing athlete,” Alvarado said. “Her teammates are very confident in her athleticism. She is one of our best hitters. Off the field, she is very positive, very energetic and always cheering on the other girls. Honestly, she’s a great teammate.”

Perkins’ athletic prowess isn’t limited to Desert Oasis.

She holds multiple national paralympic records in discus, javelin, long jump, shot put and archery. She’s eyeing the 2028 Paralympic Games in Los Angeles.

Support systems

Perkins through the years has received 24 prostheses, including specialized running legs for sports to keep up with her growing body. The family credits Shriners Children’s Southern California for the care, including mapping out a medical plan after birth when amputation surgery was required.

Tara Perkins received some valuable advice in those initial months: When Alissa falls, don’t help her get up. She and her husband didn’t coddle their daughter; they supported her.

“The sports she plays makes her feel that she can accomplish anything just like anyone else,” Tara Perkins said. “She never gives up. She is constantly trying to improve herself.”

When Alvarado initially met Alissa Perkins and noticed her prosthetic leg, she asked the athlete if there was anything coaches could do to help her compete. Alvarado quickly learned about Perkins’ mentality.

“When she first came out, I said, ‘If there is anything you can’t do, let me know,’ ” the coach said. “She said, ‘I will figure it out.’ She may do some things differently, but she gets it done.”

Other players are instructed to dive feet first into bases. Perkins goes headfirst. She’s also not the fastest runner.

Other players’ equipment is mostly a glove and bat. Perkins must make sure her prosthetic is properly attached.

But once the ball is in play, the ball is in play. It’s time to compete.

“Playing sports is like almost a break from reality,” she said. “When I’m stressed from school and everything, I just go to sports and it’s like a break. It helps me just relax, and I get to be with my teammates, which are like my best friends. And yeah, it’s so much fun. I love doing sports.”

While Perkins loves playing all sports, she’s best at softball and hopes to play in college. She also plays on a club team, where the friendships are equally important to the competition.

Being a good teammate, she says, is the only way she knows how to compete. There’s been so many people who’ve helped her along the way, and she pays it forward by being front and center cheering for her friends.

Administrators at Desert Oasis were so impressed with Perkins — as a person and athlete — that they reached out to the Sun to nominate her for recognition. Her story, they said, needed to be told.

“She is beloved by her teammates, teachers and coaches, and is a truly inspirational student-athlete,” school officials wrote.

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