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End of an Era


Softball wasn't always fun. There were times when I would scream and throw a tantrum when dad said it was time to go throw a bullpen. I hated all the drills, being hit in the shins countless times, and being told to "hold the bat like you were answering the phone." When I was nine, I was determined to throw a big enough fit so that my parents wouldn't make me play little league softball another season. However, my grandiose plan didn't work. I was forced to play. I played enough that eventually I could catch and throw the ball consistently, and I even had some fun playing with crazy coaches and even crazier girls. Bit by bit, this little seed of love for the game embedded itself in my heart. All of a sudden, I was counting down the hours until I got to go play with my teammates in the hot St. George sun. I dreamed about striking out that feisty little Kirsten Anderson. I had this strange new craving for red dirt and a mitt that smelled like leather and grass. Day by day, moment by moment, Softball became part of my life. 

When I was eleven years old, there was a shortage of pitchers in our town. No one really knew how to pitch, let alone teach it. My dad, who was then coaching my older sisters softball team, started teaching Caitlin and I how to pitch. At first, the whole thing was just one big shot in the dark. My dad basically became a pitching expert by watching hundreds of youtube videos and reading countless pitching instruction booklets. There were a lot of days where I felt like some big experiment, but after a few months we finally got it down. My sister and I wore a hole in our backyard lawn from many summer mornings of pitching. My dad was our catcher and teacher. He was the one who kept telling us "great job!" even when we made holes in our neighbor's fence. He also had to tell us "Knock it off. Stop being a baby". (: 

Skip forward to me being 14 years old and scared to death about the upcoming tryouts for the high school softball team. I was terrified. I was so worried that I would look like a complete fool, and that I would be the laughing stock of the softball world. But I remember the night before tryouts, my mom and dad sat me down. They told me that I had put in enough practice and had worked so hard to improve my softball skills that no matter what happened, I would be a winner in their eyes. This confidence buoyed me up, and I went to tryouts the next day and did great. The next day when the list was posted, I was SO surprised to see my name on the Varsity list. I never would have thought in a million kajillion years that people would think I was good enough to play varsity.  Full of anxiety and nervousness, I went to the first day of practice. And let me tell you, I felt like a pigeon in a sky full of eagles. I came home and bawled my eyes out, considered quitting, and prayed that I would be hit by a meteor before practice the next day. Now, don't get me wrong. Practice was not bad, it's just that I was being required to play at such a higher level than I was used too. Going from little league softball to high school ball was a big jump. First of all, there were no juice boxes or treats in sight. We had to do drills like "Four Corners" and "Bunt Defense". I was totally out of my league. 

Eventually, I got in the swing of things. I became good friends with the only other freshman on the varsity team, KC Gubler. I tried to stay by her side as much as I could, just so I would be protected from the big intimidating seniors. About two weeks into the season, I was told that I would be starting on the mound against Dixie. I think I may have peed my pants a little, but I lived. And it wasn't even that bad! Soon I was starting about 75% of the time, and I was loving it. I lived for that white rubber. I became addicted to pitching, playing, and watching softball more than I ever had before. I got to see some great athletes from Region 9, and learned so much from watching them play. 

Even though the season ended, I didn't stop playing. I practiced and threw a bullpen at least twice a week with my dad. During the summer we spent every weekday morning from 9-10:30 on the field practicing pitch after pitch. Although they seemed to drag on for forever, these hot morning practices are what helped me to excel and improve in my pitching ability. 

My dad became a coach my sophomore year, and has been ever since. I consider myself very lucky to get to spend so much time with my dad. He is so knowledgeable about everything softball and baseball, and has really helped me grow and achieve my goals. I have also had many other great coaches that have pushed me and helped me to improve and become a better player all-around.

I consider the girls on the team my sisters. We have been through good and bad together, and I love them for keeping with it. I have total and complete trust in them. I know that if I ever falter or have a bad day on the mound, my sisters have my back. They are what keep me going. We have laughed, cried, learned, and grown together, and they are some of my greatest friends. 

Softball to me isn't just a game. It's ME. Now, I know that sounds cliche and cheesy, but that's the only way I can describe it. Softball has been something to cling to when things in life are bad. Being out on that field is the best therapy I could ever get. When I am out there, the problems of the world can vanish and I can just have fun with my sisters. Softball has also pushed me, and helped me to become a better athlete and player than I ever imagined. If you would have told me that I would be the starting varsity pitcher ten years ago, I would have laughed and rolled my eyes. But because of my parents encouragement and help from my coaches, I have found this love for the game and have been able to accomplish great things. 

And now, my senior season is over and thus softball ends here also. People always ask me if I am going on to play in college, but I've decided that it's time to go on to a new passion and a new adventure. It's not that I don't love softball, because I do. It's more that I don't want anything to taint that love or make me get tired of it. I want to go out strong and with fond memories. In a way, I'm glad that high school softball is where my career ends, because these have been the best years of my life. I want to remember softball and all the fun days I spent with my dad out on the field. I want to remember all the pranks we've pulled on each other. I want to remember being yelled at by Dotson to "Unleash". I want to remember every bad day and every good day. I want to remember these last four years for the rest of my life, and I know that because I have been surrounded by awesome teammates and coaches, I will never forget softball and all it's taught me.

So, I guess here is my final farewell to the sport I love. It's been a good ride. 
Love P

1 comment

The Stratton's said...

Oh jeeze, girl! Well said.

I love softball too. And I love you.