I’ve got diamonds on the brain. Large, distinctly recognizable diamonds. And I’m not talking about “ring by spring.”
Living in the Colony, I hear those unmistakable pings almost every day during this time of the year. At night, the corner of our campus is brighter than the moon with the field lights, and the joyous sounds of adrenaline-pumped parents, friends, and bystanders hovers like a cloud over the stadium. When the breeze gently sweeps through campus and the sun sheds its inviting warmth onto the days of this early spring, my thoughts travel back to the many years I dedicated to my favorite pastime. Nostalgia takes over.
The unmistakable crunch under cleats. Turning a double-play. The ping of the ball off the bat. The dirt caked in socks and on shoes. The piercing whistle of my father. Tender, never-healing wounds on knees. A perfect pocket in a broken-in glove. 23.
I grew up playing softball my entire life. From age 4 to 16 I was on the field nearly every day of Spring and many weekends of Summer, cheeks full of sunflower seeds and imagination chock full of play scenarios. My father taught me from a young age through demonstration, specific baseball games, and books the science and practice of softball. Game to game, I learned what it meant to “turn two,” “cheat up,” conquer a “pickle,” and mingled tears of joy in the winning run with those of disappointment in a dropped fly. I would become completely engrossed in the plays and innings alongside my teammates and we constantly shared encouraging words with each other as we played together. I worked my hardest to become great at my passion, with many hours of catch and drills in my backyard with my parents to continually improve in the off-seasons.
After years of preparing for what I thought was the “big leagues,” my dad encouraged me to consider thinking about playing on the varsity team as a freshman. Knowing the girls and the reputation of the team, I was terrified. Try-outs came, and us young girls played alongside the upper classmen to size up our varying skill levels, with only one spot on the roster open for Varsity that year. After a rigorous and stressful try-out session, the coaches created their line-up, including me – the one-and-only lowly freshman. I gained more knowledge and experience the years I played on the varsity team than all my previous years combined, learning new techniques, positions, strategies, and problem-solving. Through the devastating struggles and glorious triumphs, my heart and passion grew enormously for the game and all that it stood for.
There is literally nothing like walking out shoulder to shoulder with your teammates into the diamond with the hum of adrenaline buzzing through the air, determined and prepared to seize the game together in a victorious win. As the time approached to choose what career path I wanted to pursue, between music or sports, my heart tethered back and forth. Ultimately though, I knew my best option was to pursue music, the other half of my heart. Putting away the glove and cleats meant I was closing a chapter of my life that I would not be able to temporarily close and pick up right where I left off. The approval of my father helped me realize that even though my “glory days” as he called them were over, what an incredible experience of determination, passion, intensely hard work, and learned skill I had earned to add to my knowledge as well as a plethora of lifelong memories to recollect when the breeze carried the scent of grass and sun shone just right.
On occasion, I revive my glove with the familiar pop of the ball into the pocket as I contemplate what it would be like to walk on to CBU’s softball field to try out. But, as my dad used to say, the “glory days” are over, but my heart will forever remember and love the years I dedicated to the diamond of my youth.