An Open Letter to My Fans
Dear Fans on MY Sidelines;
I am a 15-year-old pitcher. I have spent many, many hours struggling against the pitching rubber, trying to get my pitches right, relying on the relentless (and often frustrated) support of my dad in the hopes that I can stand in the middle of the brick-dust, on a slab of rubber, and do the job that my team (that our fans) rely upon me to do. My relationship with pitching is love – hate at best. For now, I love it much more than I hate it and THAT is what gets me through those games where I cannot seem to find a strike zone.
There is a lot of pressure on me to perform for my team. I also put a lot of pressure on myself when I take the field. It may not look like it, but deep within my heart and soul, everything around me is silenced and all I hear is my own heart thumping in my chest.
When a girl hits a home run off of my best fast ball, or my defense doesn’t play behind me, or it becomes easier to complete a complicated algebraic equation than it is to figure out an umpires strike zone, it takes A LOT of effort and mental strength for me to step back on the rubber and throw the ball with poise and maturity. I tend to start over thinking things, sometimes I try to throw harder or faster which only flattens my pitches, other times I suck back tears, and mostly I am trying to talk myself through it, out of it. No amount of practice can prepare me for the intensity that I feel is placed on my shoulders during a game.
I need you to support me. Like echoes from a distant mountain, I hear the clapping hands and ‘good pitch,’ shouts. I know YOU are there. And I am grateful. BUT!
What I don’t need is for you to make things harder on me.
Yes, I too KNOW those last two pitches were strikes.
Maybe the umpire missed it. Maybe he closed his eyes for the 1.2 seconds that it took for my ball to leave my hand and reach the plate. Maybe from your seat on the sidelines it looked like a strike, but it WASN’T a strike at all. If I can let it go, so should you. Yelling at the umpire, asking him if he is blind, complaining about the strike zone, telling him he sucks, questioning what is wrong with him, accusing him of being biased – even though done with good intentions of helping me do my job, is NOT helping me.
That man behind the plate is human. And I need him on my side.
When a bunch of well-meaning fans are constantly (and relentlessly) jawing behind the plate, ridiculing, questioning, arguing, bickering and complaining – his strike zone gets smaller and smaller, at my expense. At our teams expense. Sometimes, this happens just 2 pitches before I figured out his/her strike zone. Just like I hear you cheering, I hear you complaining, and I can literally feel my strike zone getting smaller and smaller by the batter.
All I ask of you is to sit and be patient with me as I pitch. Be patient with the umpire. Be patient with the game, no matter how thwarted or unfair it seems to be. The reality is that I am trying to push the envelope as far as possible and disguise eloquently placed ‘balls’ as strikes to both a batter and an umpire. When you start to try to ‘defend’ me from the sidelines, I lose my leverage. Completely.
I thank you for your support. I need it. I really do. But I would appreciate you even more if you would leave the armchair umpiring to my coaches.
I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t unknowingly stack the cards against me, so that I can do my job on the field. I will never be perfect. I will have good days and bad days. I will be both a hero and a villain in the circle. I can deal with that, can even step off the rubber after being taken out of a game by my coach, while disappointed – still determined to come back out and pitch. Being better, getting better is what drives me. For you. For me. For our team. So please before you speak – take a second to decide whether your words are going to help our team do better, or perhaps unwittingly hurt our team. That is all I ask.