I grew up playing softball. When I got old enough and good enough, I played it year-round. Unsurprisingly, I eventually became burned out, but because much of my social life was wrapped up in softball, it took me a while to get the nerve to stop playing. When I quit, I had to deal with anger from my friends, teammates, and coaches, which I worked through, but I also had to figure out who I was beyond softball. And I did, and my life went on.
I quit softball right before the first game of my junior year. I didn’t quit on a high note – I’d been ditching practices, faking illnesses – all the telltale signs that something wasn’t right. I didn’t know the last game I’d played in would be the end. I don’t even know if I got a hit.
This always bothered me. I had a recurring dream where I was on a softball field, playing third base, and the ball was hit to me. I’d field it cleanly, then move to throw it to first. But the ball either wouldn’t come out of my hand, or I’d throw it and it would bounce on the ground right in front of me, trickling over to the first baseman too late to make the out. Then, I’d be up to bat, but I’d strike out swinging on three perfect pitches. I had that dream a few times a month for over seven years.
When Jackie! and I were roommates, she came home from work one evening and recruited me to fill in for a missing female on her company team. I went and had a lot of fun playing. I didn’t have any problems throwing or hitting the ball. My recurring dream slowly stopped, and I eventually joined a few different slow-pitch teams, where I managed to get more hits than errors.
I went back to that park today, where I spent all those hours practicing, playing, and watching softball. My old high school had a game, and Maddie and I watched the girls play. I remembered the pressure, the agony I put my young body through, and the HOURS of practice. And I remembered the chants, the camaraderie, the thrill of victory.
…and I realized I’ll be spending a lot more time at parks just like this one.