As you know, I am inordinately proud of my kids (see “Computer World” etc.) and their abilities. In contrast to her technically minded brother, my daughter excels in the artistic and sporting fields. She is a very talented artist, budding guitarist and an exceptional equestrian but it is on the Softball field that she really shines. She started playing Tee Ball at age three and I have many pictures of her sitting in the outfield with a friend picking daisies to prove it. She progressed from Tee Ball through the various levels of Softball until 2015 saw her in her final year at the Intermediate level. Her batting improved slowly but surely as did her confidence, although throughout the years she maintained a mantra of “I don’t want to pitch, the Pitcher always gets the blame, I don’t like everyone looking at me, I don’t want to pitch”. All well and good, as I’ve never been one to push the kids into doing things they have no desire to do, so it came as something of a surprise, but also no surprise,knowing her contrarian personality that prior to the recent season she announced :”I want to learn to pitch”.
I’d often felt that pitching would be a natural thing for her and after attending a couple of pitching training sessions I was not surprised to hear from her coach of her natural ability on the mound. I was surprised to see her pitch in the opening game of the season as I had expected a little time before she was thrown into the breach. She performed admirably, pitching two innings and striking out batters with a confidence that I doubt many older players would display under similar circumstances. She had a mid season crisis of confidence after a couple of very harrowing innings in which she walked five batters each time which made her want to quit. She was told that she didn’t have to pitch in the games but did have to continue with pitching practice and after a session in which her no-nonsense coach addressed her concerns she was back with a vengeance.
She pitched through the whole season, even pitching three innings on one occasion, something I learned most pitchers don’t do until their second season, often not until their third, and never in their first, which boosted my belief in her even more. Her ease and confidence on the mound shone through and even when facing tough opposition late in the season she never lost confidence, something that would have happened at the start.
No matter how good her pitching, it pales in comparison to her batting. Every time she approached the plate this season she displayed confidence and prepared to face the pitcher with a pose that exuded confidence, strength and ability. Her weight would always be on her back foot, her front leg extended in front of her and her bat twitching with anticipation. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but in every game that involves hitting a ball there is a very distinct sound associated with a well delivered shot. Believe me, I became very well acquainted with the Thwack of a metal bat against a softball. It’s a heartening sound because it means that all her practice has paid off and that she is facing a pitcher capable of putting at least one ball out of seven over the plate, which is something that eludes many girls at this stage through no fault of their own.
This is where her athleticism kicks in. She is a natural sprinter and only through the poor luck of a ball that ends up grounding within reach of the pitcher or first baseman does she ever fail to make first base. Of course, given even a fraction of a chance she will steal second and third and take an opportunity to slide or sprint into home. Not to boast, but consistently throughout the season if she got a hit she got on base and if she got on base she got a run unless she was stranded on third or tagged out due to exceptional fielding, a brilliant catch or very bad luck. All of this is a very long winded way of saying that she had a superb season, excelling even when the team as a whole didn’t and that I spent much of the time with a very broad grin plastered across my face whenever she was at bat or on the mound.
Her team made it to the playoff final which is why I found myself the night before the game dyeing my hair and beard pink as I had promised her in anticipation of the game. As the game was on Friday evening I had to go to work with my new tint and I can tell you that I got several funny looks on the boat, but then again, what’s new in that? I hear you ask.
Alas, they lost to a stronger side with lots of very experienced players and veteran coaches. Not that it dampened the post game celebration. The girls were all impressed that their medals were metal rather than plastic and all accepted that they had been outplayed and had not disgraced themselves, having given their best throughout the game. Just for the record, my daughter took six batters in her two innings of pitching and scored three of her team’s six runs, so she certainly shone, regardless of the final result. She had also dyed her hair pink, but only with a single streak, but she got a big kick out of my show of support, as did her team mates and many of the parents.
I know it sounds like a daft thing to do, but isn’t parenthood all about the stuff you don’t have to do? I’d made the same promise last year (see “Hand In Glove”) and wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass this time. She was excited just about the prospect and it was well worth all the funny looks and the explanations I had to give at work when asked to see the look on her face when I arrived at the park. This sees the end of her time in Intermediates and next year she moves up to the Majors. I can’t wait, seriously, I just can’t wait to see her play next year. Can anyone direct me to the hair care aisle, please? Just in case.