I was 8 years old. I remember walking into the front door of the enormous building like it was yesterday. The building that I had no idea would change my life forever. As soon as those front doors swung open, I could smell the damp dirt of the indoor ball field. On each of my sides were my parents, encouraging me to keep walking. In front of me was another set of doors and as I peered through the small window I saw the tall chain linked fence glowing under the dim lights. I heard the muffled voices and the sound of leather gloves coming from the other side of the doors. I was so nervous, I was shaking in my worn out pink cleats that had seen many rec league games. But this was different, this was my first travel softball team.
When I walked in the door to the field, I felt every eye on me (mostly because the door was squeaky). As I unpacked my glove and ball, I aimlessly looked for a partner to throw with. Thankfully I found someone. I tried out for the team and miraculously made it. And a whole season with this team changed my life.
At 8 years old, I had a second family. The girls, the coach, the parents, everyone. I spent all of my time with these people; practice during the week, tournaments on the weekends, and hotels at night. I made lifelong friends who I keep in touch with to this very day. And two of which I can call my sisters. Not by blood, but by fate.
My coach was the biggest part of this experience. Did he yell? Yes. Did he get upset? Yes. Did he care? Yes. He cared about me more than any coach I have ever had. He disciplined me, he yelled at me more than my own parents, he made me run more laps than I can count. He has seen many of my tears but most of all he loved me and treated me like his daughter. And that is what a good coach does. He is the one who made me the woman and ball player I am today. He knew the game like it was the back of his hand and I envied him. He taught me everything I know. So thank you coach. Thank you for yelling at me. Thank you for making me run all those laps. Thank you for making me cry, over and over again. Thank you for putting me on the edge of quitting, only to come back and try harder next time. Thank you for loving me and making me a stronger woman.
Now that I am done playing softball, I look back at these memories and I am happy. Not that it's over, but that I was lucky enough to be that little girl walking into that big building at 8 years old. On that day, I had no idea that I was going to fall that far in love with the game of softball. But I didn't just fall in love with softball, I fell in love with the sound of the ball hitting the sweet spot on the bat. I fell in love with the sound of my leather catchers mitt, the smell of the dirt and the grass on an early Saturday morning. I fell in love with everything about the game.
When I stepped accross that white line for the last time on my senior night, I stopped, looked up, and I played that game for you, coach.
R.I.P coach. I know you're up there playing ball somewhere.