Every athlete longs for his or her chance to make the big play. They truly believe that when the time comes, they will come off the bench and hit the grand slam, run for the touchdown or make the all-but-impossible half-court shot. Of course whether or not they actually do it is another matter entirely.
To this day, I don’t know what possessed me to join the local Little League organization when I was eight. I had zero hand/eye coordination. I couldn’t run. I couldn’t field and I had a tendency to try and hit anything that came at me. (Needless to say this resulted in more strikeouts than I care to count.) I spent the better part of that summer standing in Center Field bedecked in my Cardinals uniform, chewing on the rawhide strings of my glove and half-heartedly screaming “Hey batter, batter” because no one was talented enough to hit the ball in my direction.
I was so bad that my brother couldn’t stand it anymore and took matters into his own hands. “You’re embarrassing everyone,” he told me. “You swing on anything. You have no idea what a strike zone is and you keep using bats that weigh more than you do!”
Though I resented his harsh words, I knew he was right. I sucked. Even though my team was doing well that season, I knew it was not because of any contribution that I was making to the game. He worked with me everyday, teaching me to choke up on the bat, keep my eye on the ball and to at least “look alive” when I was in the field.
I wasn’t Babe Ruth or anything, but I improved and believe it or not, by July, my little ball club found itself in a two-night playoff for the Season Championship. I was so excited and I wanted to win so badly for my brother who sadly, could not be there for the games because he was visiting his mother.
He missed my big moment. During the last inning of the final game, I was up to bat with two outs and runners on first and second. It was as if I’d learned nothing. After a few miscues, I was at a full count. The next pitch would seal my fate.
The pitcher released the ball and I swung with everything I had inside of me. The ball flew farther than it ever had before. I ran to first as the short center picked up the ball and threw it with all of her might. It went over the baseman’s head and my coach screamed, “RUN!” I darted for second and watched as one of my teammates tagged home plate. It wasn’t the play that won us the game or anything, but for a girl who couldn’t hit the broad side of a bar only a month ago, it may as well have been the World Series.
The following morning, I called my brother to tell him about my “double” and that the Cardinals had won the championship. I knew he would be so proud of me. I had done what he’d told me to do and it had paid off.
In the end, he was underwhelmed by the big play. “You woke me up to tell me that?” He grumped. “I hate to break it to you, but you didn’t hit a double. You got to second on an overthrow thanks to a fielder who is actually worse than you. Do me a favor, stick to singing. Sports aren’t your thing.”
Maybe not, but when it was crunch time, I rose to the occasion and he couldn’t take that away from me. I had made it to second on one hit. I was the Season Champion. I was on the All-Star team…and I was smart enough to retire while I was ahead.