When Mia-Danielle Bellinghieri was born she weighed just two-pounds-13-ounces. Her twin sister was bigger at three-pounds-two-ounces. Both were born prematurely and spent six weeks in the hospital until they were strong enough to go home.
“She (Mia) actually had pneumonia in the hospital,” says her mother Cathy Bellinghieri, who adds that Mia went home with a heart monitor and later, at what would have been 40 weeks gestation, had hernia surgery.
“At 11 months they got the clean bill of health,” Bellinghieri says. “I was lucky; with what I had, most people lose the babies.”
By kindergarten, Mia says she was a normal size. Now she is five-feet-three inches tall, which is actually a little on the small size for a basketball player. But that hasn’t stopped her from playing.
No one suspected that Mia would overcome all that goes with being a “preemie” and grow up to be a terrific athlete. From a young age, she played any sport that used a ball.
“The only thing we said no to was tackle football,” Bellinghieri says. “She was intense from the day she was born!”
Mia played baseball at the Howard Palmetto Baseball Softball Association league.
“I played that for four or five years,” she says. “Then I switched to a travel team and I played that for six-and-a-half years.”
While that doesn’t sound unusual, it was. Mia played on a boy’s team, the South Florida Contenders coached by Peter Certa.
“I tried out and I made it,” she says. “At first I was a reserve player and I worked my way up, and then I was a starting player. I played second base, shortstop and pitcher. I played that until seventh grade.”
She also played on a flag football team.
When she moved on to middle school, Mia began to feel uncomfortable playing baseball with only boys. She decided to make a change.
“I started playing softball at my school just for the fun of it.” she says.
She played softball in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. She also ran cross country while in sixth grade. Basketball and volleyball were also in the mix. In the seventh grade, she played basketball with the boys at Suniland Park. In the eighth grade, she played basketball in the Beth Am League and volleyball at school. Now in high school, Mia is playing basketball for Palmetto.
“She is doing great,” says her father Joe Bellinghieri. “She’s the starting point guard for the Palmetto varsity.”
Before the winter break, the team had a 10-2 record.
Mia considered playing volleyball as well, but the two seasons overlapped and she decided to concentrate on basketball.
“I was going to do it in high school, too, but it interfered with basketball,” she says. “I played with Palmetto High in the eighth grade in the spring league.”
Mia says she has put baseball and softball behind her, even though her friends still try to convince her to play and some people think she’s good enough to be recruited by colleges.
“I don’t want to, I don’t even want to do it for the fun of it,” she says. “I never really liked softball. Everyone thinks the game is the same (as baseball), but it’s different. I liked baseball a lot. The major thing was being with all the boys all the time and with me getting older. I decided to play basketball one day and I fell in love with it.
Mia says it is different playing with girls.
“They can definitely get more overly dramatic about little things,” she says. “Girls try to settle things more, while guys get more competitive.”