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The Wake Up Call
The sun was beating down hard on the softball fields of my high school. Sweat was already rolling down the faces of the players in the field as the first batter stepped up to the plate, Adriana. Whack! She gets first base. Next batter, Korissa. Adriana steals second base with Korissa’s bunt. Bases become loaded when Madi hits another single. It’s my turn.
All different emotions run through my mind all at once. Excitement, anxiety, nerves. One glance at my father in the stands, and with his nod I step up to the plate with a confident smile on my face as I look at the pitcher. Savannah, the pitcher who is also on my team outside of school, along with all the girls on base, smiles and starts her windup. Ball. Too high. I step out of the box to take a few swings.
“Good eye, Ashlee,” Coach Anderson tells me, “Focus on this next one.” I hear shouts of encouragement from Matt, my best friend, in the crowd.
Time seems to slow down as I get back into the box. I line myself up and smile once again at Savannah. She starts her wind up once again and I am anxious to get my bat on the ball. The bright yellow planet comes towards me, face smirking and saying taunts in my sister’s voice. Crack!
I stood there for a few seconds just staring in amazement as the ball kept gaining height until it finally reached its climax in left field and fell over the fence. I was in disbelief as I ran around the bases and heard all the screams from my teammates and the crowd. I hit a grand slam!
The game continued on in increased excitement as I took the mound each inning. A couple of runs every now and then on their side still did nothing to effect my ferment until the sixth inning. This became the absolute best game of my career when the ball skyrocketed over the fence again after the crack of my bat. I had never been so happy before.
Softball is my life, and I was irrevocably in love with it. My weekends were dedicated to softball. My weeknights were dedicated to softball. My blood, my sweat, my tears, my pain, were all dedicated to softball. Most of all, my heart was dedicated to softball.
Most of the team and some of our friends went out that night and saw the brand new movie Alice in Wonderland in celebration of our great victory over Centennial, 12-6. I ended up having to share a seat with Matt because the theater was so packed, but it was still an awesome day.
School ball ended and my club team, AZ Legacy, started again. Now my coach took my batting more seriously. Now I was not just the catcher. Now I was given a chance at pitching. Now I was given more respect. Now I couldn’t be happier.
To make things even better, my best friend was even on the team. But, we were not really a team, we were a family. Every weekend we did not have a softball tournament, half of the team would be at Jimmy’s house, my head coach. The parents would be out in the backyard: moms talking, and the dads competing at Baggo. The rest of us would normally be up in Adriana’s room, my best frien
d. All of the coaches were like second dads to me, and I another daughter to them. They were even as overprotective of me as my own father when it came to dating.
You know that a guy really likes you when he agrees to coming and meeting six dads instead of just one. But, he came in and shook hands with each of them: my dad, Don, Jimmy, Robert, Jay, and Frank. Of course, it was poor planning on my part to let him take me out on the night of my dad’s birthday party.
This was the night of happiness and also the night of destruction.
When I got back from my date, Taylor, Alexis, Adriana, Aryana, and Savannah all had to make fun of me for something about his looks, but I did not really care at this point and all of us were completely oblivious to the fresh fire started between my father and Jimmy. Fire always leads to destruction.
Embers were ignited once again a couple of weeks later after one of my practices. Ironically it was not even Jimmy who was responsible for the fire, but it was my least favorite coach, Jack. It was at the time when our team was starting to slowly fall apart: Madi, Korissa, and Savannah had all quit. It was a pretty hard blow since that meant our coach, Frank, was also leaving. And, in Jack’s speech of what was supposed to be “encouragement”, he quietly turned into ¬¬¬¬General Hideki Tojo taking his strike at Pearl Harbor.
I cannot even remember the context of his speech now, but in it, he pointed to each one of us and said our positions: “Nothing is going to change without Madi, Korissa, and Savannah, you are all going to continue playing and working for your positions. Like first base, Taylor, or short stop, Adriana, or right field, Sam, or third base, Megan, or bench, Ashlee….” Of course everyone laughed when he said this to me, and I just smiled, but I really felt as if he had started to drive a big black stake through my heart. The stake had not gotten very far, but had still left its mark, left its scar.
Thankfully, his inspirational speech was at the end of our practice so I was able to hold myself together until I got inside of my mom’s car. Then, it was as if my dam had been broken: I started to cry, and tried to tell my mom everything that had happened while tears were still steadily raining down my face and I tried to think of what I had done to deserve the position of bench. I was the starting catcher and second starting pitcher, I was a power batter who went into batting slumps pretty often because I never received helpful one-on-one batting help from any of my loving coaches, I could play almost any position they put me in well, yet I still was just referred to as bench?
My mother was just as furious as I heartbroken and called my dad as we got home, who was also furious about it. My dad worked nights as a commercial driver for UPS, so he was not going to be home for awhile and called Jimmy immediately after he got off the phone with my mother. Embers were ignited.
My despair of the night only deepened with his call back to my mother.
I knew something was wrong when I could hear the angry tone of his voice coming through the earpiece of my mom’s phone. His conversation with Jimmy had not gone very well. My dad wanted to quit the team right now, and I probably would have agreed if Adriana, Jimmy’s daughter, was not my best friend. Or so I thought.
The dreadful tears stormed over my face once again, and I told my mom I didn’t want to quit while she was on the phone with my father. My greatest fear that night, ironically, was that Adriana would also be mad at me too. It was not the fact that my coach was never going to treat me the same. It was not the fact that my father’s relationship with a friend was once again ruined because of me. It was not the fact that my heart was breaking.
Nothing ever was the same after that.
I ended up staying on the team, softball was my life. Jack talked to me the next practice and told me how he did not mean to offend me, but even after that, him and I never fully got along. Jimmy and my dad were never friends like they used to be. Yet, I was still oblivious to everything.
Life continued, as it always does, and Nationals came and went along with many other tournaments. We didn’t win, and I hit my only other homerun in the last game and pitched one of the best games of my life. Of course, that did not mean anything to Jimmy or Jack; I still received no respect, and they only tried to change how I did everything.
Adriana and I started to drift away from each other slowly, and her family went over to Taylor’s house every weekend to go swimming instead of ours. I made new friends at school, but I still had not realized that she was the reason I was still even on the team anymore.
Sweat, blood, tears-- all were things I was willing to feed to softball. After all, softball was my life, softball was my heart, softball was my soul.
Spring turned into Fall, and Fall moved into Winter. I did new things, I saw new things, I learned new things. Most of all, I joined the soccer team and warmth seeped into me once again.
I enjoyed myself playing a sport again, and actually felt as if I was wanted and needed on the team. Of course, we were not exactly a very successful team and never won a single game, but that is what made it even better. My relationship with new friends increased and my new best friend emerged.
During soccer season at school, I was still on my softball team, but we did not have any more tournaments to prepare for school softball tryouts coming up in the new year. Jimmy signed our team up for a little league to help us all receive more game time experience. New silent sparks sizzled between us when I could only attend half of the games because I had soccer games on the nights of the other half.
The last game I played with that team was what was my last straw. Jimmy had a previous catcher that we previously had on our team about a year ago start catching before me. The fact that everyone on the team, especially Jimmy and Adriana, treated her like they loved her was what made me realized how fake they could be. Because for the last year anytime we saw her at a tournament they had made fun of her and clearly expressed how relieved they were that she was no longer on our team.
If they were this fake to a girl I knew they could not stand, then how did they really feel about me?
Softball camp started at school at the end of January, and I thought a new atmosphere might change things, might change my emptiness. I was finally coached instead of just told, but my passion for softball had vanished and was still missing by the end of the camp. For the first time in a very long time, softball was not my life. I did not even wish to try out for softball anymore, but kept telling myself it would get better if I made Varsity.
I walked into school with a hopeful air around me that Monday morning. I saw Adriana standing around some of the varsity girls and crying as I made my way to where the varsity list was. “I made it!” she told me as I walked past. I just smiled as my heart dropped. I knew in that second that my name was not going to be on that list.
The final nail drove the black stake all the way through my heart. I was finally broken.
I went to the first three practices before I just could not do it anymore. I walked off the softball fields and still have not returned. Adriana and I hardly even speak even though we have had plenty of classes together. We never received a phone call or an email when I never went back to AZ Legacy, I never received any texts or calls from any of my teammates.
I was broken. Softball was no longer my life, softball was no longer my love.