After six weeks of intense softball action, our girls brought home a league championship trophy and a tournament championship trophy. Rock on, ladies!
The beginning few practices are always tough because girls are getting to know one another and feeling personalities and skills out. We had a sixth grader from the local catholic school on our team this year. She had an amazing pitching arm and hit the bat like Babe Ruth. She was definitely a notch above the other girls in the league. However, she was so humble and kind to all the other girls on the team. When one would strike out, she’d be the first to pat her on the back and tell her it was ok. When Ri pitched a bunch of balls, she’d step out to the mound and calm her down. The girls all looked up to her and her simple presence made a huge positive impact on the team.
We struggled in the beginning of the season to understand the new rules of the game: dropped third strike, stealing, sliding…. And there was different rules for each league we played in through the season: UA played you could steal fine, Gahanna didn’t. UA allowed 4 innings per pitcher and stealing on a walk, we didn’t. You’d think it would be fairly easy to remember (I thought so too) but you get in a game situation and your mind is on who to play where, getting girls around the bases, where the game ball is hiding….
But we hit our stride half way through the season. The girls were all comfortable around one another, they were learning how to get under the pop fly, their arms were getting more accurate, and their bats were coming around well. We played only Grandview teams in the last week and a half of the season. We ended up 5-1 against our other Grandview gals; one game ahead of the second place team. We secured the league championship against the Indians – a team coached by my buddy and the father of Ri’s good friend. The girls doused me with water and ice and ran around the bases giving high fives.
My assistant coach and I made sure after each game that the girls gave a cheer to the opposing team -“2,4,6,8 who do we appreciate…”. There were a few games where they were mighty hesitant to chant it but they came through after some provocation by their coaches. And their good sportsmanship was recognized: parents approached us after games and praised the girls for being upstanding sportsmen.
I must admit, I was on pins and needles in the league championship game. I wanted my girls to get a trophy so badly. My stomach killed half way through the game but I held it together and never let the girls know I cared. It’s all about having fun and playing hard, I’d reiterate to them. But deep down inside, my competitive self squated, waiting for our next big hit.
I was calmer for our championship game. It was our last game, the girls had secured a trophy, and I just wanted to have some fun. Mission accomplished, for the most part. Ri didn’t have her best game; I wish she would have gotten a fly ball or hit a good single or double. But she cranked out some good plays in past games so I kept reinforcing that each time she came into the dugout mad she didn’t make a good play. In the bottom of the 6th, tied 16-16, Sofie hit a triple and brought Kathryn home to win the game 17-16, and no one cared how they had played through the game. They just ran out to the field to shake hands, ran the bases and hugged incessantly.
We had to clear out immediately because the boys played right after us. The girls grabbed the water jug and moved it over to the grass. There was no surprise as to what was coming. I tried to get my assistant coach under the downpour with me but she alipped away. Half the girls got in there with me though. The ice felt good!
We moved to the picnic tables and I presented each of the girls with a gift bag filled with candy, sunflower seeds, framed picture and a “Stay Calm and Play Softball” postcard. I bought each girl a different type of candy based on their personality. As I handed out the bags, I described why I chose the candy for them. Yes, I am a sentimentalist….
I also just loved my team this year – I’d take these girls back in a heartbeat to coach. It was so strange waking up the next morning knowing there would be no more games to run to after work. Crazily, I really miss it, but look so forward to the insanity next year.