By JASON WEIR
Drug-addicted birth, adoption, family, softball, college.
This has been the progression for two sisters born by the same drug-addicted mother and then saved through adoption by two loving families.
Aubre Carpenter, 23, and Kalynn Martinez, 19, have no trouble keeping softball in perspective.
They both overcame the odds against them at birth.
Carpenter’s mother was addicted to crack when she was born.
“I was really underweight,” Carpenter said. “She even did it the day I was born. I am surprised that I didn’t have any major birth defects.”
The pattern repeated itself with the mother’s next child four years later.
“My mom was in jail for half the pregnancy,” Martinez said.
She wonders if that fact saved her from being a “crack baby” like her sister.
Both sisters were born in Las Vegas and found families in Tucson through adoption.
“My brothers used to tell me I was the grand prize for losing in Las Vegas,” Carpenter said.
Both were also leaders for Pima Community College softball head coach Armando Quiroz.
“You can’t teach leadership, you can’t teach aggressiveness, you can’t teach desire, you can’t teach work ethic,” Quiroz said. “They have it. I am not surprised they are sisters.”
Carpenter was 5 months old at the time of her adoption.
She had already been left in a foster home multiple times before family members in Tucson took action.
“My aunt, who is my mom now, came and got me,” Carpenter said.
Martinez was three-weeks-old at the time of her adoption. Carpenter’s brother played in a soccer league at the time, and a teammate’s parent had family members who were looking to adopt.
“My parents couldn’t take another kid, I made eight,” Carpenter said. “So they put her with a family friend.”
Martinez learned of her adoption in eighth grade.
Their birth mother was in a Tucson rehab center at the time, and Carpenter took Martinez to meet her.
“It was very eye-opening,” Martinez said. “It was very clear she wasn’t fit to care for a child.”
The sisters saw their birth mother one more time, after learning she was dying. They paid her a visit in Las Vegas, where she lay in a hospital bed on life support.
“They had the blanket over her and it looked like there was nothing there,” Martinez said. “I didn’t know her, but it really hit me being there.”
The hospital needed a decision about discontinuing life support. As the oldest, Carpenter was prepared to give approval but it was not needed as their birth mother died during the night.
The sisters became exceptional softball players who used their talent to pursue higher learning.
Carpenter’s All-American career at Pima generated multiple softball scholarship offers, and she chose Indiana State.
She played in the NCAA World Series both years at Indiana State and earned a degree in criminology.
Martinez, a sophomore criminal justice major, has created a similar path. Morgan State and Baltimore have already offered her full-ride scholarships, but she is waiting until the post-season to make a decision. “I still have a lot of visits that I have to take,” she said.
Her perspective shows when talking about the factors in her decision. She would like to play shortstop, but won’t base her choice on that factor alone.
“I look more at the program’s history,” Martinez said. “I can play wherever a coach needs me.”
Her current coach agrees. “They are both so talented and skilled that they don’t have to worry about who is there,” Quiroz said. “They are going to prove themselves.”
Martinez may finish her Pima career just as her sister did. Carpenter was named All-American and helped lead the Aztecs to a regional championship as the second seed her final year.
Pima will nominate Martinez for All-American honors, Quiroz said. The Aztecs head into this year’s regional as the second seed.
Leadership from Quiroz helped Martinez through a rough stretch early in the season.
“Nobody is perfect, he definitely understands that,” Martinez said. “He kept the faith in me.”
Quiroz returns the compliment.
“She is our best athlete,” he said. “Anybody I replace her with will be less than her, athletically.”
Quiroz’s faith in her sister didn’t surprise Carpenter.
“He cares a lot more than people realize,” she said. “They are not just girls on his team, they are like his children.”
The sisters appreciate the gift they were given.
“I am lucky,” Carpenter said. “If I wouldn’t have been adopted, I probably would have been in and out of jail.”
Carpenter thanked her birth mother.
“Because of her decision, I don’t touch drugs or alcohol,” Carpenter said.
Her sister nodded in agreement by her side.