Spring 2021 Magazine

UCLA softball's Stevie Wisz faces 3rd open-heart surgery, thanks God for her story

Stevie Wisz is not a star athlete for the No. 2-ranked UCLA Bruins’ softball team. She’s had three at-bats over four years, and one hit. She’s primarily a pinch-runner with one stolen base and 23 runs scored. And yet, if you ask coach Kelly Inouye-Perez, Wisz is irreplaceable.

“She is a very important cog in this wheel,” Inouye-Perez recently told ESPN. “Without her in that spot, we go nowhere. She puts the team before herself. She helps girls going through hard times. She’s the glue of UCLA softball, always giving unconditionally without expecting anything in return.”

A few facts about Wisz: She was diagnosed with aortic stenosis when she was still a baby, and had her first open-heart surgery at 9. At 15, Wisz had a second heart surgery, and is now 100 percent dependent on a pacemaker to live. Wisz had to give up every sport she played except softball, and was committed to making the UCLA team as a walk-on, which she did … after being stood up twice by the coaching staff for her tryout. Before her senior year at UCLA, Wisz was told she would need yet another surgery, which she delayed until after the softball season was over.

“I give so much of my life to that team and they give so much to me, I didn’t want to miss out,” Wisz told ESPN. “Not just the game, but the memories.”

This is the attitude that Inouye-Perez describes as vital to the UCLA softball team’s success. Wisz does everything asked of her, is willing to give everything she has, and lights up the locker room with her positive spirit.

“She just had this ray of light,” assistant coach Lisa Fernandez  said about the time she first met Wisz. “The brightness in her eyes, on her face. The smile. The positive energy. Anyone who has ever met her knows she has this great presence. Then you hear her story and it was just like, ‘Wow, what can this kid potentially do for us?'”

There’s a direct connection between Wisz’s impact on her team and her faith in Jesus. On her Instagram account, Wisz responded to the ESPN article by thanking a series of people, including God:

View this post on Instagram

Never in a million years would I think the small-town girl who has suffocated from self-doubt, confidence issues, and adversity her whole life would ever be featured on ESPN. Never in a million years would I think my journey with heart disease and walking on to the UCLA softball team would be displayed on a platform this big, with the potential to reach and touch so many people. I am so humbled and blessed for this opportunity to share my story. To everyone who has impacted my life in some sort of way, thank you. I would not be where I am without every single one of you. Wayne, thank you for believing in me, investing in my story, and changing my life with this story. I will forever be grateful for you and all you have done for my family and me. To my Bruin family, thank you for welcoming me with open arms. To God, thank you for uniquely creating me and providing me with my own distinct story. As tears stream down my face, all I can think of is the strength and love you have given me every step of the way. Although this story may seem as it is glorifying me and all my achievements, what it really is doing is glorifying the tremendous work God has done in my life. ALL GLORY TO HIM❤️

A post shared by Stevie Wisz 🌻 (@swiszzz) on

“To God, thank you for uniquely creating me and providing me with my own distinct story. As tears stream down my face, all I can think of is the strength and love you have given me every step of the way. Although this story may seem as it is glorifying me and all my achievements, what it really is doing is glorifying the tremendous work God has done in my life. ALL GLORY TO HIM.”

Her Twitter bio is filled with references to her faith, including a recent tweet saying, “You are not alone. You are so special. & God has such a special plan for your life and story.”

As for softball, UCLA has reached the Women’s College World Series. The Bruins’ next game is Friday against No. 6 Arizona. Win or lose, Wisz will be with the team for the rest of the season, graduate on June 13, and then head into another surgery, and the rest of her life.

“I was fearful of the surgery and what’s to come next for a while,” Wisz told ESPN. “But I flipped it. I don’t live in fear of dying. You can’t. Instead, I’ve made the choice to live like there is no tomorrow.”

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