Lynn’s Paola Otero is the first to admit that when it came to playing softball, she was what you might call a late bloomer.
It’s not that the ability wasn’t there when she was younger, it’s that she didn’t start playing until she was 13 years old and even then, it happened by chance. She started swinging a bat to kill time while she waited for her brother to finish up with a baseball coach he was working with at the time.
Otero is now a freshman catcher on the Trinity College softball team and she’s this week’s co-Bantam of the Week. She earned the honor after hitting .523 (11-for-23) for the week with two extra-base hits, three runs scored and two RBI. She had an eight-game hitting streak intact heading into this week’s games with four of those games in row featuring multi-hit performances. She also notched her first collegiate home run during the stretch (a two-run shot).
Otero’s accomplishments on the softball diamond at Trinity are impressive, as is the story of how she got there.
Otero grew up in a neighborhood off Chatham Street in Lynn. Her mother, Luz Baez, and stepfather, Antonio Silvestre, are both from the Dominican Republic. Otero attended the Ford School in the Highlands, which at the time served kindergarten through eight. Otero said she was good student, but it was the people at Ford, especially now retired principal Claire Crane, who saw her potential and encouraged her to enroll in [email protected], a summer enrichment program held at The Pingree School for seventh and eighth graders from Lynn.
“She (and other teachers at Ford) genuinely cared about what was happening in my life. In a city with so many things, so much going on, she took the time to look out for my future,” Otero said.
After a summer in the program, Otero was inspired to apply to many of the prep schools she had been introduced to and she ended up going to The Governor’s Academy in Byfield on a full ride. After graduating Governor’s, she thought she would benefit from a post-graduate year and with encouragement from a friend at Governor’s, she applied and was accepted into Phillips Exeter, also on a full ride.
“It was a whole different world,” Otero said of her experience in the Pingree program. “There was so much green.”
Otero said she’s the first in her family to go to college. She said her mother and stepfather didn’t know a lot about prep schools and colleges. but were totally supportive of her decisions.
“They may not always be able to understand where I’m coming from, but they listen to me and help me navigate. Most importantly, they helped me believe in myself,” Otero said.
Otero said she knows it was very difficult for her parents to let her go off to prep school as a freshman and live away for four years.
“It was a big step for them,” she said. “I can’t imagine how nerve wracking it was for them.”
Otero said the key for her has been that at every level of school, shehas had people who cared about her and helped guide her, whether it was at the Ford School, at Pingree, or at Governor’s. This summer, she’ll work at Governor’s in a program that is similar to the one she attended at Pingree. Although the program does a lot of work with students from Lawrence, Otero is hopeful that someday soon they’ll also be working with Lynn youth.
“I had good people along the way
,” she said. “At least I was presented the opportunity (to attend prep school). A lot of kids don’t know these opportunities exist. My life would have been completely different, not bad, but different.”
Otero, who is studying public policy, law and economics at Trinity, played varsity softball at Governor’s for four years. Her team won three Independent School League championships while she was there and as a junior, she was the league Most Valuable Player and a Boston Globe All-Scholastic player. She also played as a post-graduate student at Phillips Exeter. Although she missed those Little League softball years in Lynn, she was a Babe Ruth U14 All Star one year.