9-10 year old softball. Kinsley plays for the Oconee Diamonds–red jerseys and awesome red and black diamond socks. In softball, it’s all about the style. She is the right fielder and bats middle to end of the batting order. She isn’t the worst player, she certainly isn’t the best. She is the best cheerleader. She calls encouragement from her right field post (there isn’t a whole lot else to do out there). When batting, she gets on base 90% of the time but generally is walked to first. At home she bats fine. During a softball game she doesn’t. A) she has lost her glasses and I think can’t see the ball B) my little perfectionist is afraid to swing and NOT hit it so she just doesn’t swing and C) 9-10 year old softball with 9-10 year old pitchers. Enough said.
Our team is ‘undisturbed’—aka undefeated. I think I prefer Kinsley’s word better. We are currently in first place.
Last night. We are playing our arch nemisis. Tied the first game with them. Won against them the night before. As fate has it, a make-up game WITH THE SAME TEAM was last night. The game volleyed back and forth. Sometime between the end of the game at 9:30p on Monday night and the start of the game at 7:30 on Tuesday night this team had some practice. A play-by-play would bore even the most obsessed fan so I’ll just skip to the end.
Last inning. We are down by one run. Two outs. Runner (coaches daughter) has stolen to 3rd. Kinsley steps up to bat. Her squat little self strides up to the plate. She takes a few practice swings. She bounces her leg a few times. Nerves radiate off her AND me.
3 balls-league rule–no one walks in the last inning. Once the ball count is full the Coach gets to throw 2 pitches be them good or bad that is all the batter gets. Pitcher throws, Kinsley swings. Misses. Strike. Pitcher throws, ball. ”Good eye,” we call out. Please God, please God, please God I beg. I want her to get a hit. Not just to tie the game but for her confidence. Meanwhile, Kinsley’s llegs are twisted like a pretzel because she has to go to the bathroom when she is nervous. Pitcher throws. High over head. Coaches scream for Kinsley to get out of the way. Runner goes. Shoot. In the last inning you can’t steal home. Runner goes back. Kinsley steps back to batter box. Pitcher throws. Kinsley doesn’t swing. Strike. Pitcher throws. Ball. Full count.
Other team calls time and huddles at the mound. Big, hulking amazon chicks in black wearing face guards (really?) so that they look like insects. Coach is a brute–yelling all night. He’s fired up at the mound.
Our 2 coaches lean in and talk to Kinsley. She’s nodding. She’s also bent her leg up and frantcially taps it on her other foot. Seeing her nerves, I want to vomit. Other teams breaks their conference. Kinsley steps back to the plate. Coaches are screaming instructions. Girls are chanting encouragement. Kinsley wiggles and little and settles into her stance.
Did I tell you that she has yet to get a hit in a game. We are undisturbed and in first place. This team is in 2nd and are hungry for our spot. Parents have been sparring back and forth all night. Ahhh….the stress is killing me. I turn to the moms behind us. Seasoned softball moms. “Please don’t hate us if she strikes out” I beg. They smile in sympathy.
Deep breath. Coach steps up and throws the first pitch. She swings. She misses. I fall off the bleach. Literally. Coaches tell her she can do it. She takes a practice swing. Settles back in. He lobs the ball. I cover my eyes. CRACK. The sound in unmistakeable. The ball is spinning down the first base line. I fall off the bleachers again. The first base WOMAN WHO LOOKS TO BE 6 ft tall grabs the ball. I cover my eyes and hide myself in the fence where I landed when I toppled. Kinsley’s running for all she is worth but she will never make it. The amazon chick bobbles the ball. It drops. Kinsley churns on. Hands high at her side. Thick legs pumping. She’s scared. She’s looking at the ball. It is a race. Mega woman catches it and hurls herself toward the bag just as Kinsley steps on it.
The ballpark on our side goes silent. The other side errupts in cheers.
To quote Kinsley, ” we are now disturbed.” We lose.
Rather, the score said we lost. BUT….to me…Kinsley won. Before she could get to the dugout the head coach ran over to her…he lifted her up so she was eye level (not an easy thing-he is not a big man). Later I found out that he said, “You be proud of that hit, that was a great hit. Don’t you be sad,” or words to that effect. Every coach and almost every player congratulated her on her hit. In the after team prayer one of the little girls raised her hand and congratulated Kinsley on her hit. Not one of them mentioned the loss.
And that is the magic of sports.