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My Baseball Journal

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“Girls don’t play baseball, that’s why we have softball.”

Meh. Like I cared if girls weren’t allowed to play baseball, I just wanted to make sure I was allowed to. And no matter how many times people would tell me it was nearly impossible, I never listened, never gave it a second thought. There’s something about baseball, something that, almost inconspicuously to most people, distinguishes it from softball. Maybe it’s because baseball is what the Mets and the Red Sox and the Indians play; maybe because baseball is the American pasttime; or it’s the sport everybody plays at the 4th of July picnic; it’s what you think of when you smell leather, dirt, grass, even a greasy hotdog; it even has it’s own song. Baseball possesses some kind of magic. When a fantastic play is made, it’s like a perfectly choreographed dance.

I discovered my love for baseball at nine years old. My little brother began playing in a recreational league at age seven and I made sure I was at every game, watching intently and totally mesmorized. How did I not hear about this game before? It was incredible, and these were just twerps…I wondered what the big boys played like. I soon got to find out. For seven years, I was daddy’s little soccer player. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the game, but it wasn’t baseball. After one of my soccer games I walked off to a nearby baseball field where an intense last inning was being played. High school baseball, these certainly were big boys. But I was right, this game was even better than what my brother played. It was smoother, faster, more challenging and aggresive and I could sense it. That day I decided I was going to play baseball no matter what. I told my mother, who like any mother gave me the speech that is entitled to persistent {some might say extremely stubborn} all-American tomboys, that playing baseball with a bunch of boys ran the high risk of being injured and was much too strenuous. If there is one thing you should never do it is tell me I can’t have something I desire most. You might say that’s an impertinent, bratty excuse coming from a spoiled little girl; but it’s a legitamate statement. Why? Because telling me “no” only ignites the fire in me up more and motivates me to dream harder and work diligently to get what I want. I never expect anything to be handed over to me in life, but I know I can get it myself.

I ignored my mom completely and though she said it was not an option, I still thought about it and never stopped. One day sitting on the wooden bleachers at my brother’s baseball game, I was introduced to a girl my age who I was told played softball. Immediately I grimaced at the word “softball.” It it wasn’t baseball, it couldn’t be that great. Our parents scooted us off to play catch. We played for a good five minutes, neither of us {both shy} said a word to each other, neither of us really cared to either. I didn’t even know what her name was. One good throw and I missed, sending me off with a black eye. That day I came to another very important decision in my life. I hated softball. I would never in my right mind play a sport with a hard ball the size of a watermelon.

Two years passed, I still didn’t give up the idea of baseball. I frequently begged, bargained, and pleaded with my mother and every time she said “no.” Until…she found a city league for eight to twelve year olds, boys and girls, and replacing an actual pitcher was a machine. I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed with joy, and was reluctant at firt, but I gave in. It wasn’t Babe Ruth Baseball, but at least it was something…it was “blue jay” baseball. There was so much spirit it those disorganized, rowdy games and so many memories. I loved it. By age thirteen I assumed I got my fill of baseball in for the rest of my life and resumed watching my brother {who moved from babe ruth to the city league} play. But my the end of that summer, I realized I still wanted it. I resorted to playing baseball with a few friends at a sandlot near my house, hoping it would cure my constant impulse. That wasn’t enough for me, and people could see my obsession with it. One hot September day, sweaty and dirty playing in the field, Erin W’s Babe Ruth baseball coach passed us, spotted Erin and his sister, and stopped to chat. They made small talk breifly and then the man turned to me.

“So this is the one you’ve told me about. The one who wants to play baseball.”

Having been absent from the conversation, I looked up startled, reddened, and widened my eyes but I didn’t say anything.

“Well, kiddo,” he began. “There’s no nice way to say it, but the best thing for you is to play softball.”

I hated pushy people. But I allowed him to continue.

“Ten years ago a girl tried out to play in the league and the boys weren’t too happy…or nice. She went hope with a bruised rib and of course didn’t make the cut. Listen, I don’t care if you’re the best female baseball player out there, do yourself a favor and go play softball. If you played baseball, you’d be out there with boys from the Junior Varsity team. They’ve been playing before they could talk.”

I didn’t like this guy. He was not only a coach but the president of the league. And a sexist one in my opinion. Ken C. was the exact kind of person I made an exception to be blatantly rude to.
“Patton C. What about her? She played in your league when she was twelve {just last year}, she was the only girl to make allstars too,” I noted, proudly.
He chuckled.
“She was twelve. You’d be playing with boys bigger than that. I mean it’s ok to play at a younger age but when the boys start to grow and become more competitive it’s not as safe anymore. Even Casey the superstar moved on to softball.”
“Nah,” I corrected casually. “She moved to Kentucky.” Bite me. “And if she didn’t move she’d be playing in your league and beating all your boys, ‘specially that one.” And I pointed in Erin’s direction. My dad always told me for someone who could appear so quite, I had a big mouth.
“Oh is that right? I didn’t know that. I just assumed she started playing softball.”
“Assuming makes an a…” well I didn’t say it but I wanted to.
“Well Mr. Charles, thanks for the tips, I’ll keep them in mind.” Yeah right.
Ken Charles was just another person who said “no” to me in my life, and just another reason to keep pressing on.
I left the sandlot that day, trudging back to my house thinking deeply, “I want a challenge.”
The appetency was inevitable. I didn’t quite know why I wanted it so much, I just did. But I think the answer “I just do” is what everyone with a dream says. They don’t know why, they just do. Even though, that day I said “I am going to play Babe Ruth Baseball” I still questioned it so many times, was so uncertain if I could do it. My head said, “think logically, there’s a good chane you can’t do this, you probably shouldn’t” my heart said, “don’t quit, you can do this…you have to do this; life’s all about risks anyway.” I was out to prove I can, to everyone who told my I can’t, but more than that, I was doing it because I couldn’t stop myself. Because it’s what I wanted most.
All fall and all winter I spent every afternoon after school strength training; if I was going to play with “big, strong” boys, I’d have to do everything they did. And I was pretty sure the fifteen year old boys who stood 6 foot 2 inches and weighed 185 did a bit of strength training themselves. I stole every spare second possible to practice before the cold weather came. I had just one problem. This time, I didn’t tell anyone how badly I wanted to play baseball. Honestly, I can’t tell you why. I’m not sure why I couldn’t say it, especially to my parents. There was only one person I told it to, my friend Grace who believed I could do it the whole time. All winter long I mentally and physically tried to prepare myself for the season, but I kept it all to myself very secretively. It wasn’t until a few days before baseball evaluations my parents found out I wanted to play baseball, and I wasn’t even the one to tell them. All winter long I prayed, endlessly I prayed asking God for help, for His guidance, asking Him if He cared even about the little things like baseball. I pitied myself for having no way to build up my baseball skill with the baseball field covered in show. And I have to admit I was no talented baseball star. The only way I would get better was if I drilled constintley.
But somehow I did it. Evalutations rolled around and I’ll never forget that day. My whole body felt like it was in shock as I audasciously strolled into a baseball training facility where the evaluations were being held. I had gotten through it, barely. A few days later I received a call from the vice president of the Babe Ruth league in my small town. He had coached for fifty-three years and noted he had many girls in the years before, including his own daughter who played on his team.

The season came and gone, four months of baseball. The guys took me under their wing and most of them didn’t seem to have a problem with me. I had a few bumps I dealt with privately, but other than that I was almost admired for my stupid boldness. At the end of the summer of 2008, our team’s manager called it a career. I was the very last girl he ever coached; I guess I tired the old man out. Our team came in second place that year, after losing the campionship came 3-2. Once again, I thought I got the “baseball obsession” out of my system. Boy, was I wrong. Baseball will never be over for me.





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Bbb4313 said...
Aug. 16, 2010 at 5:15 pm
that was amazing.
 
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