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From afar, he looks like any other student athlete.
Preston Hiles, a senior at Johnstown High School, is a kicker and wide receiver on the football team and currently an outfielder, first baseman, and pitcher on the baseball team.
But Hiles doesn't get the benefit of the doubt at first.
“It’s just a lot different, I guess” Hiles said. “People look at you differently when you play,” he said. “They don’t know what to expect, if you’re bad, or what.”
Born with a deformed right arm, Preston was told plenty of times what he couldn't do.
He was also picked on.
“I wasn’t ever depressed about it,” the senior said. “It was hard when people say stuff, but I pretty much just ignored everything and did the best I could at whatever I did.”
“Kids would be like, ‘Oh, who is this kid? Let’s let up’. I’m like, ‘This is awesome!’ it gives me an opportunity to show them up and make them look bad.”
Hiles has always had the support of his parents.
But in a sport like baseball, of course there were worries.
The questions arose how would he field, how would he hit? Hiles solved that quickly.
When it comes to fielding, Hiles fields and throws with his left arm.
He swings a bat with both hands, letting it go in the middle.
Johnstown head coach Tony Cleveland says people are in awe of Hiles’ abilities.
“Once we got out on the field and I saw him at first base, the outfield, and hit him balls, [you see] how quick he is at catching the ball, getting his glove and getting it in his hand, once I saw him hit and everything else, I knew he was a complete baseball player,” Cleveland raved.
While being a complete ball player is important, Hiles is thrilled to be a role model.
“I definitely want to be looked at as an inspiration” Hiles said. “I’ve been told by people before that I inspire their kids or them. It just gives me a great feeling and that’s what keeps me going.”
Hiles’ career will keep going and keep inspiring.
After graduation, he will head to Ohio Christian, where he’ll play baseball.
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