Yesterday, quite by accident, the Oregon Ducks softball game in the sub-regionals against Texas came up on the tv. When I noticed it, the family all got interested, well at least the adults present - John, Michele and I. John had worked his rear-end off (and is back at it right now) polishing up our front area with new pavers, new bark dust, trimming shrubs and trees, and edging. Ending the day watching some very competitive and entertaining softball was just what he had in mind.
It turned out that the Ducks beat Texas in the second game pushing to a third game play-off last night. (Texas won the first one). The Ducks dominated in the third game and are now headed to the Womens' NCAA World Series for the first time since 1989...very cool.
Watching it all, however, brought back memories of my all of my own softball experiences. Memories that span a myriad of years, emotions, and physical pain.
Michele and I began playing summer softball in fifth grade. She found her "home" (figuratively and literally as in "home plate") as a catcher. I, on the other hand, wandered a bit in my placement. When I was at my softball-playing "peak", however, second base or shortstop were my favorites. I loved moving with every play, covering two different bases at with any given hit.
We played summer ball until middle school and then began double duty with play during the school year as well. As freshman, we both made the freshman team, then as sophomores and juniors, it was JV. Whether it's a good thing or bad thing, our particular high school class excelled in sports. That made the competition very tough to get very far on teams, but it didn't stop us from trying. So, I have to say, when I was a junior and one of the oldest and most experienced players on the team - it felt GREAT! That was the season where I felt like I really contributed - and not just as the "most inspirational". Being a small kid (I didn't reach my full height of 5'6" until I was a senior in high school), I wasn't much of a power slugger, but I knew how to bunt - which was my specialty. Not only was I almost always able to guarantee that the player on first base was able to advance to at least second base, but more often than not, due to my proper placement of the ball - I was able to get to first base myself (an accomplishment as I'm not fast either). I was team captain (Michele was often called up to play catcher for varsity at that time) and I loved the leadership as well. We also had the most incredible combination of coaches...two gals, Sherrie and Shari that were so sweet and supportive. The only negative to that year was that my throwing form started to tweak. I don't know know why, but it involved my elbow and resulted in excruciating pain. I would hold my elbow in my mitt at times, just trying to suck in the pain...
After that wonderful school year playing experience, it was a huge let-down to play summer ball for a team that was thrown together and much less powerful than our opponents. It was also coached by the duo of coaches that were the varsity coaches during the school year. Our health teacher, Genny Revell, and an older guy, Dwight, that knew his stuff but was not exactly warm-fuzzy. It was early in the summer game season, maybe the third game we played that I miraculously made it on first base (I think I was walked). This team was beating us up bad. Dwight gave me the signal to steal second base - so off I went. I slid - and was SAFE...but, my left foot that kicked up and behind my right leg ended up implanting into the dirt...while the rest of my body kept up with the momentum. Uh huh...that's not a good thing. I broke my fibula in two places and I think, cracked my tibia. It was all down next to the ankle - so essentially, for all intents and purposes, that's what I broke.
I remember writhing in the dirt, PROUDLY not crying or screaming. I did call for some help and Dwight came running out. He began scolding me for not sliding the way he taught me and in a show of rare brashness, I informed him I didn't need his lecture, I need help off the field. He did pick me up but not before wrenching off my helmet to give to the runner that took my place on second! Once we got to the bench, my head coach (health teacher) took over. You'd think that would be the ideal person to offer assistance, but, on the contrary, I'd taken her class already and knew all of her first aid actions myself. I questioned why she was taking off my shoe when it could allow more swelling - and in another display of of sassy-ness let her know that I disapproved of her efforts to ask me all sorts of unrelated questions just to keep me distracted from the pain. My parents went ahead and drove me to the hospital, a very inept x-ray technician who caused tremendous pain gasped as he looked at my results, and a doctor verified the bad news that I'd messed myself up good. After having me swallow some pain meds, I bravely sent my parents away to sleep soundly and told them I'd see them in the morning. Being the proud idiot I was back then, I refused the offer to take more pain meds when the first ones wore off. Consequently, I was calling my parents at 5am begging them through tears to return before I went off to surgery. I was told that if I woke up with a cast coming all the way up to my thigh, that meant that they were able to manipulate the bones externally to set it correctly. However, if I woke up with a cast just up to my knee, that means I'd be setting off future metal detectors - as they'd have had to cut me open and set the bones with a rod inserted. I vividly remember being wheeled off...so happy. Because the pain was so intense, I knew that I'd only have to endure for just minutes longer before blessedly being put to sleep. When I woke up, the cast went all the way up to my mid thigh.
On another post, I'll elaborate more on my experiences with that and the horrible summer that went with it - but as this is supposed to be a softball-centered post - I'll return to topic.
Despite a bit of sliding phobia, I did end up playing varsity softball as a senior. I was a bench warmer for sure, but will admit to one glorious left field catch that helped seal the deal for us to make it on to state play-offs. I'm not sure if Thurston High School's softball team had ever gone to state, but I was on the team that had done it. Unfortunately, we lost in the first round, so ended up 7th...but wow, it was a thrill to be a part of. That's the only positive I can say for it. It was a miserable season for me. I was ending my experience on dance team simultaneously which was much more of a passion for me that softball had eroded into. I couldn't throw to save my life. I still can't. Psychologically, I've completely erased the correct form to throw a ball....so sad. I can overhand serve a volleyball, but can't throw a softball. At least a few times a year, I dream about the pre-season open gyms we were urged to attend and being given "the talk" by Mrs. Revell about whether I'd play or not. In my dreams, I give myself the liberty to quit. To say "no". To free myself from having to ALWAYS finish what I began - and to live without the misery that every practice was. In reality, though, I earned the "Varsity Letter", gained a lot of memories of being on a very special team, ruined the pleasure the game would ever bring to me in terms of participation, and opened my mind to the idea that any activity my children pursue should be encouraged but never become bondage for them. It was self-imposed for me - my parents would have never pushed me to do something I didn't love....but, obviously (especially evidenced with the dismissal of pain meds), pride had a lot to do with how I functioned back then.
So, way to go Oregon Softball - but, gotta say, I'm so glad it isn't me out there playing!!!