National Softball Tournament – Days 2, 3 and 4
Originally, I had thought I would detail each day of this last tournament of Kacey’s softball career. And while I could describe each game the team played; the wins, the losses, the highs and the lows… now that it’s all over and done, I don’t think those are the things that will stick in my memory in the years to come. Suffice it to say we had every bit as much fun in Omaha as I had hoped, the girls and parents alike. There were some losses and there were some wins. We watched some of the very best softball our girls have ever played. All those years of practices and games, all those years of learning to anticipate one another’s next move came together and the girls played in a way they’re never going to forget. I am so very, very proud of them.
Years from now, there are things I’ll remember more than the individual wins and losses. I’ll still hear the way the girls cheered each other on… “Come on, kid! Wait for your pitch! You can do it!” I’ll hear the nicknames they call each other, Al-Ro, Jae-Fae, Hae-Rae, Sheebs, Svetlana, Meg-Babe, Abbers, Hannah B, Ja-Mol, Dee-Pur and Kacey… I’ll remember all of her nicknames. They called her Sticks, or Moo, or Eleven or most recently, Angel. But mostly I’ll remember the name they called her most, KaceyMeece! Just like that, they’d say it, KaceyMeece, with such emphasis on the last part and such affection in their voices.
I’ll hear Kacey calling from behind the plate for the throw to come home, “Cut four! Cut four!” I’ll remember the clang of the bat as they hit the ball. I’ll remember the slap of a glove as the ball landed smack in the pocket. I’ll remember the way the coaches communicated the signs to their players and the way they believed in these girls, saw their talents sometimes long before the girls found those very talents within themselves. I’ll remember blazing sun and the dust from the ballfield swirling in the air and I’ll remember huddling under an umbrella when a game went on in spite of the rain.
In my mind, when I think of the days when Kacey played this sport she loved so much, I’ll remember her face, with a look of determination or excitement or simple happiness at being in a place she just loved to be.
In the years to come, when I think back on these days, I’ll think back to a group of girls who became more than team mates. I’ll remember girls who became best friends and who loved one another like sisters, sometimes even getting under each other’s skin like sisters. I’ll remember the weekly team sleep-overs that continued even until they were long past the age of sleep-overs.
My daughter has such an easy-going manner and a talent for putting people at ease. I can’t help but give some of the credit to her involvement in softball. She had to learn to be a team player. She had to learn to accept differences in others and she learned to be a positive and effective leader. Softball helped Kacey learn how to get along with others.
My dad recently remarked to my sister, “I know you kids think that all these sports your kids play are really important, but they’re really not.”
Growing up, I wasn’t given the opportunity to play organized sports and I know my dad simply has no idea how valuable they can be in a child’s life. But I do. I know that softball was very important in my daughter’s life. I know there are times I was less than enthusiastic about getting up at the crack of dawn to get my kid to an early game, or about sitting through games in the cold, the heat or the rain. But now it’s all over, too soon, as I’m finding too many things are in my life these days. And I will never be sorry that so much of our time was dedicated to organized sports. They’ve taught all of us valuable lessons and given my kids so many skills that will help carry them through life.
In the end, I was able to be there with my girl, to watch her do something she loves, right to the very end. And when that final loss knocked them out of their very last tournament as a team, the girls weren’t the only ones with tears in their eyes. I was glad for the sunglasses I had on.
I’m sure Kacey will play softball again. There are intramural teams at college and adult leagues in many communities. I won’t be surprised if she finds a way to play the game again in the years to come or even coach a team of her own someday. But in my mind’s eye, I will always see her as she was this summer, smiling, laughing, cheering and playing ball with this very special team.