A few days back my niece Ashlynn tried out for softball. It’s an effort to redeem the family name from when I played.
From the year I played.
From the year I attempted to play.
You see, I should have been a ballerina. But my sister was an all-star softball player. Not to mention a klutz at ballet. So my parents, God love ’em, erroneosly thought that since we both possessed the same genetic code, that I too, by default would be an all-star softball player as well. Or maybe I begged and persisted until they cratered. It doesn’t matter now does it? It’s just one of the many hobbies I took up that vanished rapidly. Like painting, quilting, guitar, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
An allstar, I was not.
The three words that best describe me and I quote,
“Stink, Stank, Stunk!”
I was number 9. I remember well because I was also nine years old. Our team was called the Panhandle Perforators, whatever that means, and our green caps had very large white letters PP emblazoned on them. It might as well been the scarlet letter. Two red P’s or yellow P’s for that matter, could have only worsened the situation for me. It was humiliating to this nine year old girl who would rather be wearing toe shoes and tutus to wear a ball cap with PP on it. If you have already surpassed the maturity level of a nine year old girl, I’ll help you out with my humiliation. Pee pee and doo doo. Get it, PP?
They stuck me out in right field where I picked dandelions and did pirouettes with not a care in the world of what was happening in the game.
I was daydreaming of rainbows and glittery ponies.
My dad would occassionally walk down the fence line and come visit me in my lonely position where nary a ball came. Never. Never, ever. He’d give me a drink of his coke, lean on the chain link fence and advise me to “Look Alive.”
I’m sure my parents buttons were really busting when I got up to bat. I had no intention to swing the bat. I already knew deep down that I would never swing, even at a perfect pitch. I wouldn’t choke up on it, I wouldn’t even get in a stance. I stood there, stiff as a board with the bat resting on my shoulder, butterflies swarming in my stomach, palms sweating, heart racing, and I prayed. I prayed for four balls to get me to first base. I wasn’t going to swing. Two strikes may whizz past, but I continued to pray. It was too great a risk to strike out on purpose. My nine year old, self-conscious logic told me, I’d rather strike out standing there like an idiot than to strike out swinging and prove to everyone how pathetic I really was. It makes no sense. It’s completely illogical. I realize that now.
But alas, my nine year old faith grew as strong as the mighty oak, because more times than not, the Great Coach in the sky heard my childish prayer and delivered me into the safety of the first base where I would run and grin back to my parents applauding in the stands. I don’t know why they didn’t wear paper sacks with two cut out eyeholes to my games. Ah yes, because my sister was playing on the same team. They surely wanted to be associated with her.
I still have my jersey. Twenty-six years later, I can’t bear to part with it. I’m sentimental like that. We also made it to the championship and earned a trophy. I still have that too.
Actually, I think I scored the winning run.
Or maybe I was on the bench the whole game.
My memory escapes me now.
When I discovered a few days back that my little bitty, non-athletic, chicken-legged, never thrown a softball in her life, niece was trying out for softball, the first thing I did was pull out the scissors and the papersack and went to work.
We are anxiously awaiting to see which coach pulled the short straw. But I’ll be there at her games, nevertheless, cheering her on as she twirls in right field.
If you’re looking for me, I’ll be the one with the sack on my head.
I once read a report that asked some 100 year old people what they regretted most in life, and the most common answer was they wish they had taken more chances, more risks, and not always stayed on the sidelines. I think of those
centuryites, centurians, centuropians old people often. And I, with my wrinkles and wisdom, look back on my younger years. And I wish I would have swung that bat. Swung it like I meant it. Whether I struck out or not. At least I would have taken the chance.
So to my niece I say, play your heart out, whether you’re good at it or not. I’ll be cheering you on.
And to all of you as well.
We only get one go at this, so swing for the fence.