Take one extra moment
This is always a bittersweet time in the softball world. On the one hand, you have the excitement of post-school season tournaments, the culmination of a year’s worth of hard work in college and many high schools.
At the same time, you also have the ends of careers. High school seniors who play in the spring and who don’t plan to play in college (or the summer) are looking at their last high school games. College players who aren’t going pro, or playing in a women’s fastpitch league, are also getting ready to hang up their spikes – or more accurately leave them at home plate.
For both groups, it’s been a lot of years of going to practices, playing games, working on skills, rinse and repeat. Those who played travel ball also had endless summer weekends where they spent all day at the ballfield, then went back and crashed at a budget-rate hotel only to get up early and do it again. It all sort of runs together after a while.
But now, it’s coming to an end. That’s probably difficult to fathom – the end. Most probably haven’t processed yet what it really means. Sure, they know no more practices, putting up with angry coaches or the drama that often seems to accompany team sports. But it also means that they will no longer be doing something that once came as naturally as breathing.
Sure, they can join a local summer league and play slow pitch. But it’s not quite the same. The speed and competitiveness that comes with school or travel ball just won’t be there. It’s the difference between looking at a photo of the Mona Lisa and actually standing in front of it.
So to all those who are about to play their final games I have this bit of advice. When the last out is recorded and your fastpitch career is done, don’t just pack up your gear and rush to your cars. Take a moment to drink it all in.
Savor the sights, the sounds, and many of the smells of the field. Look at your well-worn glove, or the nicks and scuffs on your batting helmet. Take a good look at your teammates, and think of all those you played with in the past – especially when you were little and just trying to figure out what to do and where to go.
If there isn’t another game starting right away, walk out on the field once last time as a fastpitch player and look around. Think about all the good times you had, and all that you accomplished throughout your career. Because once you leave the field, you’ll never quite be the same.
And that’s true even if you plan to coach. A coach’s perspective is very different than a player’s. You’re a part of the team, but you’re still separate from it.
As they say in the movie Moneyball, we’re all told someday we can no longer play this game. We just don’t always realize what that means.
Be proud of what you did, and know that it was part of something special. Someday you’ll be glad you took those few extra minutes to realize how special it was.