Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Centerfield


Well, a-beat the drum and hold the phone
The sun came out today
We're born again, there's new grass on the field

A-roundin' third and headed for home
It's a brown-eyed handsome man
Anyone can understand the way I feel

Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Look at me, I can be centerfield

This past summer our local Little League boys went for quite a run, winning the state championship, landing on ESPN, and coming up just shy of heading to the Little World Series. It was great to see boys that we've known for years mature into a special moment that they will remember for the rest of their lives. As I sat and watched the games I thought back to another championship that may not have gained the fame of this year’s team, but sure brought a bit of excitement to our house.

The 2009 girls’ softball season arrived right on time.  The cool of winter was behind us and spring was in full bloom.  It was the perfect time to head to the field.  That season started out the same as others before with no indication that it might be special.  All interested girls went through hitting and fielding exercises to organize their skills, the coaches met over pizza to draft teams, and practice began.

Over the years, Maddie had played various sports from soccer to basketball, but softball was her favorite.  Perhaps it was a love of the game, time outside with her friends, or because her coaches (Donna and our good friend) focused on fundamentals with plenty of laughs on the side.  I am not sure.  All I know is Maddie enjoyed playing pitcher, to catcher, to second base, and centerfield.

Before the first game I was asked to help out the team.  Maybe I was chosen because I used to score baseball games as a kid or maybe because I didn't mind carrying the coach's clipboard.  Either way, after a complete review of all the other candidates (there were none), I was given the unofficial title of Scorekeeper. My job was to list the teams' lineups, keep track of the game, make sure the girls were ready to bat, and verify the score with the umpire. 

While this may sound like stressful work to some, I did receive fringe benefits. Because my official duties required me to be in the dugout, I was able to pass on my secrets to hitting, fielding, and sneaking pieces of the post game snack when the game got a little slow.  I was also schooled in the ways of the softball cheer. For some reason, when you get a group of girls in a dugout they have to sing things like "to the green 13, to the green 13", "hey you on two, wiggle, wiggle, wiggle", or "we want a single just a little single, we want a double just a little double...".  I didn't recall that from baseball, but found myself quietly cheering alongside.  Sorry, they are catchy!

We started out the season with a win, then another, then another. There were struggles and there were successes, but from my dugout view I quickly realized we had something special. We had more than just a group of girls. We had a team.  In game after game, different girls stepped up for that timely hit or to turn that rare double play.  Before we knew it they finished the regular season undefeated and were headed to the playoffs.  Game after game they took the field with a confidence I did not see at the beginning of the season and won out. In the end, they were the recreational league champs. 

A few things have changed since the summer of 2009. Some girls, like Maddie, played one more season of softball, trying to regain the magic of 2009, but it wasn’t there.  Other teams hit their stride and took the league by storm.  Maddie decided to stop after a realization that her skills no longer matched those of the stronger girls heading into travel softball.  She enjoyed every minute of the rec. league game and was not ready to commit to the next stage.  For her, the timing was right as she had discovered her love for acting and singing and wanted to dedicate her free time to that. Some of the other girls transitioned into gymnastics and lacrosse while others continued with softball and are playing for the high school team today.

As we all do, I remember certain special moments from my childhood, which brought me happiness.  Depending on situation, I remember a lot of details or just a moment in time.  Looking back, these didn’t seem to be significant at the time.  They were just regular days where something special occurred.  As a father, I watch our kids and wonder what they will recall when age 30 becomes age 40. Maybe it will be a family vacation, laughs around the school lunch table, or success on a sports field.  It’s impossible to tell which moments of their childhood they will remember fondly, but I hope there are many.

I'm not sure if 2009’s softball season will make the list of the many wonders that Maddie will experience in her life, but I hope so because its made mine. If by chance it does, I hope to be by her side when she looks at me, recalls the story and says "remember when…".  With any luck, we will laugh about the cheers, smile about the wins, and remember the days when I stood by, clipboard in hand, and overheard a little girl say... 

Oh, put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Put me in coach, I'm ready to play today
Look at me, gotta be, centerfield

Credit to: John Fogerty, "Centerfield"

Here are a few photos from the season: 


Staring down the batter and prepping for strike 3 

The slugger's stance

Hammin' it up in the dugout 

One happy catcher! 

The 2009 Champs!