Softball is a Pi Day Potluck

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a Pi Day potluck.

Everyone is in a single file line, scanning every entree option, actively thinking what the best combination of food is to pile onto their plates. Their stomachs growl as the coffee is finally digesting and wearing off from the morning.  Every ounce of frustration from the morning will be quelled by the comfort food that is about to console them. Many question how much food they are able to serve themselves while still walking away with dignity. They think to themselves, As long as I get a vegetable I can eat whatever else I want. Or maybe that’s just my reasoning.

Needless to say, everyone is famished, and this is the best part of what everyone knows is the start of a VERY long day.

Softball is many things. It exists in the littlest of traditions. Standing in that line, looking at the spread of food, I was brought back to every double header I ever played at Loyola.

Our families would collaborate about who was in charge of feeding the 16 ravenous players between games.

They would try so hard to maintain a healthy diet for us, ensuring that there was a well-balanced spread of veggies and proteins. However, being the swollen-hearted mothers that they are, they couldn’t fight the urge to spoil our palates by bringing sugary sweet snacks and belly fattening carbs. After all, the way to an athlete’s heart is through her stomach.

We would all stand in line, the topic of gossip being whose angelic mother was in charge of this heavenly spread, and where is she so that I can hug her right now, and OH MY GOD is that a nutella smore brownie? We’d whisper and laugh about how much food we would try to combine (and fit) on that ridiculously tiny plate. It has to be the dessert plate, right? Because I’m going to need 5 of those.

Then we’d grab our meal, sit on the turf by our parents to talk softball as long as we could stand it, or sneak in as much time with them before we were quarantined in the dugout for game time. We’d soak in that 20 minutes of carefree, easy-going energy between games where our switch was turned off, where we weren’t division I athletes, where we didn’t have to focus, where we didn’t have to get the hit, or make the perfect throw, or run, or dive, or push ourselves to our mental limits. We could sit there and just be. For 20 minutes.

Finally, our coaches would signal for us, and we’d rally together as a team, pinching the newly formed fat on our bellies and trudging slightly more slowly during the pregame warm-up.

We’d head back to the dugout, and turn on our switch.

See, softball does not just exist between the lines of the field. It exists in the every day. True, my softball switch may be in the “off” position currently, but every now and again, I see that light flicker. Sometimes, in the form of a Pi Day potluck.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a Pi Day potluck.

 

 

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Softball is St. Patty’s Day

Softball is many things. Today, softball is St. Patty’s Day.

For four years, St. Patrick’s day didn’t exist in my world of celebrations. Chicago’s biggest party? Guess what…I wasn’t invited. Why? One word: softball.

For four years, I moaned and groaned. I longed for the freedom from my commitment to have a night of fun, to be a part of the crowd.

For four years, I felt like I was missing out.

This weekend, I had my St. Patty’s day celebration. It was incredible. I was with great people, I had the freedom to enjoy Chicago’s biggest party, and I was finally on the guest list.

But now, as I reflect back on those four years, I never saw softball as an even better party.

See, people don’t tend to truly appreciate what they have until it’s taken away from them.

Today, I wish I could be on the field one last time. I’d give anything to suit up for one more game, one more practice, one more bus ride with the team.

Today, I know I’m missing out on one of the greatest experiences any athlete can ever dream of.

So, for four years, I always thought that St. Patrick’s day was a party I was missing out on by being at softball.

Today, I know different. Because…

Softball is many things. Today, softball is St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Softball is a Grey Crayon

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a grey crayon.

As I walked around the barren classroom at the end of the day, I happened upon a lonely grey crayon resting in the middle of the floor. It looked tired. The wrapper was peeled and faded, and the tip had been worn down to nearly nothing. Someone must have worked that poor crayon to exhaustion.

However, as I went to pick it up, I stopped myself. That crayon needed its rest. For as I looked upon this lonely, exhausted, worn-down crayon, I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “I know how that crayon feels, because I used to be that crayon.”

 

In college, each year we were given free gear to start the season. Whatever we received would become a staple in our wardrobe. It would become the most definitive way to identify any athlete walking around our campus. This particular year, we received the grey jumpsuit.

The grey sweatpants were the perfect mix between baggy and fitted. It comfortably hugged my hips while allowing me the freedom to layer if I needed to. The cotton lining caressed my legs and warmed them like mittens. The grey hoodie that accompanied it wrapped me in its loving embrace. As soon as I put it on I knew that it would be with me during frigid winds as I walked across campus, it would be with me late at night as I snuggled in the covers watching Dance Moms, and it would be with me at the end of a long practice to ease the pain.

As I stood empathizing with the grey crayon in the middle of the floor, it reminded me of how I used to look at the end of a long practice. I’d change out of my stain-soaked practice clothes as multiple turf balls would fall from my pants, reminding me of the incessant diving that occurred during practice, and I’d be greeted by the cozy embrace of my grey jumpsuit.

And then I would rest, like the little grey crayon, in the middle of the locker room floor. I would be so tired, and just like the crayon, I’d feel as though I was peeled and faded, and worn down because I was worked to exhaustion.

So I left that little grey crayon to rest on the floor of my classroom, because I knew it probably needed a break; I knew how that crayon felt, because I used to be that crayon.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a grey crayon.

Softball is a Data Team

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a data team.

Our careers can be immensely stressful. There’s pressure from all sides to perform, to be on top of our game at all times, to play every position on the field from teacher, to coworker, to mom, to babysitter, to entertainer, to friend.

On the job, we are pushed to our physical and mental limits. This career can strip you down and try to expose your weaknesses. It can try to break you.

The great thing about having a data team is that we are all on the same team. We all know the stresses. We all know the pressures. We all have each other’s backs.

So when I sat with my data team today, finding humor in the moment and reaching for an opportunity to laugh, I realized that I wasn’t alone in my struggle. I had people who understood me.

Because there’s something intensely comforting knowing that you’re not alone.

My softball team operated the same way. Each day, we would be pushed to both our physical and mental limits. The game would strip us down and try to expose our weaknesses. We’d be sore. We’d be tired. Often times, we would be broken. We would doubt our abilities. We would question our strengths.

But we were always on the same team. We always had each other’s backs.

So when we’d sit in the ice bath until our legs blushed and tingled, or when we’d dance carefree in the locker room after practice, we would manage to find humor in those moments and reach for opportunities to laugh.

Because there’s something intensely comforting knowing that you’re not alone.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a data team.

 

Softball is Swinging on a Swing Set

Softball is many things. Today, softball is swinging on a swing set.


 

I let the breeze comb my hair as I swing back and forth.

My earbuds sing calm melodies in my head.

The street lights rise and fall, rise and fall.

A calm rushes over me.

I look up to the stars, to the clouds.

I’m free.

Free of worries.

Free of pain.

Free of fear.

Free of self-consciousness.

Free of stress.

Just…free.

 

I let the breeze comb my hair as I pick the grass to check the direction of the wind.

My cleats sing focused melodies in my head on the concrete dugout.

The fly balls rise and fall, rise and fall.

A calm rushes over me.

I look to the field, to my family.

I’m free.

Free of worries.

Free of pain.

Free of fear.

Free of self-consciousness.

Free of stress.

Just…free.

 

Softball is many things. Today, softball is swinging on a swing set.

 

Softball is Being Early to a Meeting

Softball is many things. Today, softball is being early to a meeting.

I enter fully prepared, snack in hand. The room is big but mostly empty. A small group of people are huddle in one corner of the room. There’s not much movement. It’s mostly still. I take a seat.

I’m ready for the big day. I’m ready to do some learning. I’ve got everything I need. All my equipment is in hand. Pen, notebook, binder, etc. Almost game time.

“When do we start today?” I ask Kelly.

“12:30.”

I glance at the clock. Perfect. It’s 12:00. I’m right on time.

There’s a saying we have in softball, “If you’re on time you’re late. If you’re early you’re on time.”

Throughout my entire career playing softball, I was never late. Today was no exception.

Walking into the room today, I was reminded of all the times my teammates and I would arrive at the field an hour early, getting ready to start the big game. The feeling was eerily similar.

We’d step through the iron gates. The field was mostly empty. It didn’t have the energy of the game stained on it quite yet. We’d park ourselves on the outfield grass, finishing up our last-minute snacks before fasting for the next 4 hours of game-play. We’d set out the equipment that would sit and wait a few more minutes for us to play with it. The whole field was a movie that hadn’t started yet.

I used to laugh at and mock my coaches for how anal they were for getting us prepared so early. I used to think that it wasted so much time. Now, I have to laugh at myself as I sit in this meeting room, 30 minutes early. Softball has ingrained within me a habit that has grown comforting. I like having that time before the big game. I like the ability to prepare. To breathe. To watch the previews before the movie starts.

So as I sit in this meeting room, 30 minutes early, I know that I’m right on time. I know that soon, the game will begin, and I’ll be prepared. Because softball has helped prepare me.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is being early to a meeting.

 

Softball is a Low Maintenance Friend

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a low maintenance friend.

I’m sitting in my bed, creepily watching Jack sleep, when the phone rings out of nowhere. I look down and see the familiar name of a friend calling from California. As we begin talking, suddenly it’s as if we’re sitting on the couch, drinking wine in our pj’s only feet apart. No time has passed, no distance exists between us.

Our friendship is not the same as it was when we were minutes away from one another. No, I cannot lean on her shoulder when I’m broken up over a boy. No, I cannot see her wide smile when she laughs at our silly conversation. No, I cannot see her, deep in thought, as we contemplate and talk about life.

However, as we spoke on the phone, none of that mattered. Our bond hadn’t changed. Our friendship was as close as ever.

I once read a blog post about having a “low maintenance best friend.” The author explains how, in this type of friendship, “there’s no drama, no bullsh*t, only love for each other.” She goes on to say that, “it is a mutual understanding that no matter how much time has passed since we’ve seen each other, if one of us really needs the other, we’ll be there as soon as we can.”

Carly is, and always has been, that friend to me. She’s been one of the few people who keeps my life easy. She’s one of the few people whom I can always depend on for love.

Like Carly, softball is also a low maintenance best friend.

Our relationship isn’t the same as it has been for the past 20 years. No, I cannot have my hand held by my glove each day when I’m feeling stressed. No, I cannot have tears of sweat wiped clean by my jersey when I’m feeling sad. No, I cannot escape the troubles of my life in the box outside home plate.

Though much time has passed between us since we’ve seen each other, it doesn’t matter. Because when I need to feel the seams on my fingertips, when I need to crunch the dirt under my feet, when I need to smell the crisp cut grass, I know that softball will be there for me, with only love, and no bullsh*t.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a low maintenance friend.

 

 

 

Softball is Owning a Dog

Softball is many things. Today, softball is owning a dog.

I walked in the front door exhausted from a long weekend. I had barely gotten any sleep, and all I wanted to do was crash. I needed a nap.

Upon entering my house I heard the all-too-familiar sound of a golden tail slapping the floor in excitement, and the twinkling of nails rapidly approaching. He had the dumbest grin on his face, and in that moment he lived up to the name “Wiggles.”

I came up to bed, hoping to catch some much needed Z’s from the weekend. As I lay down, I soon realized that Jack was NOT going to let me sleep. He began his ritual for attention. He slowly sought out every possible nook and cranny in my room to disrupt. He jumped on my bed, soaked my face, knocked over my picture frames, and, to cap it off, tugged the pillow out from under my head. I conceded, but not fully. I grabbed a deliciously distracting bone that allowed me enough time to get in a fake nap. You know, the kind where your eyes rest, but you don’t make it into a deep sleep. Like floating on the surface of a pool rather than being fully submerged.

When the bone was gone, so was my chance at rest. So I took him out, played with him, and he finally wound down. The next time we got in bed, he curled up into my legs. His eyes were closed, and he was peaceful. He was perfect, and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. I couldn’t stop thinking in that moment, “how could the same dog be so demanding, so relentless, and so comforting all at the same time?”

Well, because softball is owning a dog.

 

Much like Jack today, softball would offer me similar extremes. I remember being in college and having 30 minutes to myself each day to do one of three things: eat, sleep, or do homework. Typically, I would choose sleep. I would get the same type of rest that I got with Jack today. Just enough to rest my eyes, but not quite enough to rest by mind and body.

But then, at the end of the day, after a demanding schedule, and relentless amount of work, softball would curl up with me, and sleep at my feet. Just like Jack, it was perfect, and I couldn’t imagine my life without it.

Now that the game is over, I can come to appreciate the things in life that are demanding and relentlessly tiring, because those are often the things that yield the greatest rewards. Like softball, Jack wears me down, drains my energy, and consumes my time. However, at the end of the day, he gives me back more than he can ever know.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is owning a dog.

 

Softball is a Traffic Jam

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a traffic jam.

As I drove into the city, I got caught, as I usually do, in the immensely frustrating, immensely patience-testing, immensely impossible-to-avoid traffic jam merging onto Lake Shore Drive.

I knew where my destination was. I had driven this same route countless times. In fact, I could drive it in my sleep. To be honest, I probably have at times. Needless to say, something had gotten in my way. Something stopped me. Something, in that moment, I felt powerless to control.

In softball, I had a similar experience.

I had just recovered from an injury to my wrist, so I couldn’t swing a bat like I had in the past. Today was one of my first days back to work. I knew the route perfectly. Start with my feet a little further than shoulder-width apart, lift my bat off my shoulder, transfer weight to my back leg, drop my front heel as I opened my hips, drive my hands through the zone (palm up/palm down of course), connect, power v to follow through, and I’m home free. I had driven this route countless times.

Today, I hit a traffic jam. The first part of my trip was clear. Feet shoulder-width apart, lift my bat off my shoulder. Then, out of nowhere, someone hits the breaks. I come to a screeching halt, barely avoiding the taillights shouting at me to stop, red with fury.

I didn’t know what to do. I had swung a bat consistently for nearly 18 years, I had driven the same route day after day, but today, I didn’t know what to do. I was stuck in traffic.

When I was in the traffic jam on Lake Shore Drive, I responded with slight road rage. That’s my response on the road.

On this road, the only thing I could think to do in traffic was cry.

I looked at my teammate, completely frozen, brake lights glaring, and said simply, “I don’t know what to do next.”

In my entire career, I had never experienced as serious of a traffic jam as the one I ran into that day. Fortunately, like all traffic jams, traffic finally waned, and my route cleared up.

I’ll never forget that feeling, but it’s important to remember that traffic jams happen in life as well. I found my way home that day, and I know I can do it again.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a traffic jam.

Softball is a Marriage

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a marriage.

“I’m a freaking wizard!” Shouts my mother from the ground floor.

My father bursts out laughing. “Your mother just keeps getting funnier and funnier each year. Funnier and funnier.”

I listened to the banter between my parents today and a smile spread across my face. Their marriage, soon to be 34 years strong in August, is the epitome of commitment and strength. Sure, there have been countless ups and downs in their marriage, but through it all, they remain in love. They know that they’ll be uplifted and supported by one another no matter what.

However, marriage is not easy. Not all days are like theirs today.

Softball is a marriage.

Softball uplifts me like a partner would in a marriage. It gives me support, hope and confidence. However, softball, like a marriage, takes work. It would beat me down, make me want to walk out the front door, make me want to give up. But I always knew that at the end of the day there was love between us. I was committed.

Softball is many things. Today, softball is a marriage.