I was eight years old, walking up to our little league field with knee high tie-dye socks, a big sparkly bow and our massive black sliding pads. From that moment on, I knew that the pitching circle was exactly where my little heart desired to be. From then on, a passion was born within my heart to pursue the greatest journey of my life. From that little field in Kennett Square, PA, my entire world changed and I would never be the same.
The alarm clock goes off at 4:00 am, for there are three games to be played beginning at 8:00 am a few hours away. The cooler is packed with all waters, Gatorade, snacks and 100 SPF. My dad and I load the car for a long day at the field, but there is no where else we would rather be. We stop at Dunkin Donuts for black coffees and that game day donut just like every other early Saturday morning. We pull into the complex around 6:30 am to see sprinklers gracing the dirt, the fresh white lines being drawn out and the perfect aroma of game day. My dad and I used to stand and overlook these moments with the thought, “There is nothing better than a field ready for competition.” These mornings filled our lives for 8 years and I would not trade them for anything.
Next, it is a weeknight and I have just gotten home from school. My mom prepares something for my dad to eat as we are getting in the car the second he arrives home. Depending on the weeknight we are either going to a team practice, a pitching lesson or a hitting lesson. These will always be nights that I cherish. If we were not going to one of these we were walking up our hill in our back yard for a pitching session on our pitching circle that my dad kept so well maintained. The amount of hours that were sacrificed for all of this cannot be counted. However, all of these moments led me to where I am today, and they cannot be replaced.
Then it was time for the most challenging ride, emotionally, mentally and physically. It was the door opened to four years as a student athlete at one of the most prestigious Division II programs. It was at this point in my life in which God began to use softball to teach me everything. I was broken. I was verbally and emotionally tried in more severe ways than I could have every imagined. I was challenged physically to limits that I did even know were possible. Yet, I stand here now more conformed to the image of Christ because of everything that had to be endured. My pride was taken away, my performance was taken away, the joy that came from competition was ultimately stripped from me. My misplaced affections were gradually realigned through the most challenging years. However, I can stand here today and say that being a servant of Jesus Christ and being broken while being afflicted is the most gracious trial and path that I could imagine. I am without words that God loves me so much.
With this being said, I will never be the same. My greatest joys and darkest lows have taken place between the white lines. The people beside me on both sides have helped in ways on this journey more than I can ever thank them. We have faced the most challenging days and seasons of adversity and overcome all of it together. I am honestly at a loss for words when I think of everything we have done and have overcome. However, it was these four years that have taught me how to lay down my pride. How to realign my misplaced affections and count the person next to me more significant than myself. They taught me how to count someone else’s success more important than my own.
These years taught me incredible discipline, integrity and respect. I am now shaped into a more mature, hardworking and determined person that I ever could have imagined. This yellow ball with red laces has led me to where I am today. This yellow ball with red laces has led to me to greatest teammates that I could ever ask for and road that I am so grateful to have traveled. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for every moment that I was gifted in the purple and gold. It has been the most trying, but most fruitful ride in producing character. I am not the person that I once was, and I am emerging a more prepared and pruned servant of Christ at the end of this road.
I want to first thank the game itself. You never knew who was going to win. However, I gave you my entire heart and soul since I was 8 years old and I am forever in debt to you. You are the most beautiful game there is. There is nothing like game of inches, a game a failure that calls you to give every ounce of who you are to compete. I thank you that the game was never over until the last out was recorded. You have allowed me to experience the greatest moments of my life between those white lines. The greatest joys and the hardest most challenging moments have made who I am today. I can stand here today in contentment that I have left everything part of me who I am on the field. I am overflowing with thankfulness for the greatest game that has given more than I can ever repay.
I have to thank my family in abundance. Not many sisters can say that their younger brother was beside them every step of the way. I have endless thanks to my brother Trent for sacrificing countless hours at the field, in the car and everywhere in between. I could not imagine a more amazing brother to share this journey with. I have to thank my mom for taking my desire to pitch seriously and dragging me out to the backyard in my jean shorts and pink crocs to pitch at 8 years old to ensure that I would learn what it meant to develop a strong worth ethic. My mom is selfless and I would not be here today without her going back to work to ensure that my dreams could come true. I would not be here without her working endlessly behind the scenes ensuring that we always had meals and snacks, uniforms washed and everything other aspect that goes into playing this sport. However, I would not be here today if it were not for my dad who gave up every single weeknight and weekend to chase after my dreams just as hard as I did. Every single moment we spent together are not just memories, but are a part and a piece of who we are. This game is just as a part of him as it is of me, and I am forever in debt to my favorite catcher in the world. No one knows me as a person, player and pitcher more than my dad and I would not be here without him investing his entire life in my dreams. My family is the truest, greatest of all time.
I could not write this letter and not thank all of the coaches that have impacted my life and have helped me to be where I am today. I have endless gratitude for the coaches that gave me shot, believed in me, trusted in me, and empowered me to grow as a person and an athlete. I am especially thankful for my pitching coaches over the years, you all know who you are! I hope you are all reading this and know that the impact that you have had on my life is immense and I would literally not be spinning the ball without you. Thank you for challenging me, making me go outside my comfort zone and building me into the pitcher that I am today. Your wisdom of the game is immeasurable and it was a true blessing and honor to have learned from your knowledge, skill, work ethic and over all incredible person.
Last but not least, I have to thank every teammate that I have ever had. You have all touched my life and have helped shape me into the person that I am. You are all the greatest friends that I have ever had and I have no words, but gratitude for the moments that we have all shared. To my Ramily, you are my sisters. I could not have made it one day without looking to my right and to my left and knowing that I was apart of a family that was bigger than any of us. Walking through this journey with you was one of the greatest blessings of my life, and the impact you have had on me will last forever.
If I have any advice to those of you that still have the gift to lace up your cleats and pick up your glove, please cherish every single moment. The game will never let you down. It does not know who is going to win and it rewards you with what you sow. Keep your head down, run that extra sprint, throw that extra pitch and take that extra swing because there will come a time to hang it up. Sitting here writing this, I feel a wave of emotions too difficult to verbalize. This is the most beautiful game, cling to every second on the sacred ground that you are given. Then when it is time to tie up your cleats one last time, you can do so with contentment, knowing that you have nothing left because you gave every ounce of your heart and soul to the yellow ball with red laces.