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High school softball standout battling UIL over varsity eligibility

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A family's decision to move to a safer home may end up costing a standout student-athlete some critical opportunities.

To move to another school to be on a better team goes against one of the oldest University Interscholastic League (UIL) rules. But this high school junior says she has a much different reason and plans to fight for it.

For as long as Kelli Martinez can remember, she's been playing softball. It's her life.

"I've been doing it since I was five. It's just drilled into my head. It's a passion for the game. I just love it," Kelli said.

But this summer, safety came first. After having to call Houston police at least three times in eight months -- the worst for a break-in -- her parents moved the family from an area zoned to Mayde Creek High School to a neighborhood zoned to Cinco Ranch.

Kelli, a softball standout, has been looking forward to the start of the season. Last week she got some bad news.

"That I couldn't play varsity because I moved for a different reason," she said. "I moved against my will. I moved because my house got robbed."

Her former coach at Mayde Creek filled out the UIL form saying she moved for athletic purposes and a district committee agreed. Katy ISD wouldn't discuss the decision due to "student privacy rights." But if it stands, this year the high school junior will have to play on the junior varsity team.

"It's not fair," Kelli said.

Her father worries she'll miss out on important scholarship opportunities.

"As we speak, there is several D1 (Division 1) schools looking at her, so I think it would affect her quite a bit. They don't understand and we have to explain why she is playing down to junior varsity," said Vince Martinez, Kelli's father.

Though it will cost them money for an attorney and fees, Kelli and her family are appealing the district's decision at a state UIL meeting in Austin at the end of this month.

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katy, local, jessica willey
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