Fastpitch – Jackie’s Story – Part 2
Yesterday, we had Part 1 of Jackie’s Story. Today is part 2. If you didnt read the first one, here is the link. http://www.sifg2021clone3.flywheelsites.com/2014/12/28/fastpitch-softball-jackies-story/
If you have a story you would like to submit, or if your player does – please email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
For weeks in a row, Jackie came to practice. And each time, it was the same. She reminded me every Sunday of a child who was seeing the vastness of the ocean for the first time. And each Sunday, she got better and better. She was one of those kids that listened so well, I could tell if my instructions were wrong by watching her. She would do things exactly like she was told. EXACTLY. LOL
The truth is, I became very caught up in helping Jackie. Even though the girls on our team, much to my disappointment, still whispered and eye rolled at her presence, she continued to show up. The best part of me, the dad and softball coach, wanted to invite her to the team. Knowing that the financial responsibility would be on myself (or the team) I spoke to my wife. And while she was for the idea, she knew that it was going to be a tough sell for the other parents and coaches. Remember, we were an ELITE, travel team. We had paid coaching staff. We held tryouts every season and had dozens upon dozens of girls show up, and here I was just wanting to add a walk on, who if I am being honest, did not have the talent to play with our team.
So, I invited her to come to our next tournament which was at our local field. I told her that we really needed a score keeper, and when she said she would love to, I brought her a jersey. She had a blast and got to learn a whole new side of the game. She was an eager student, even while keeping the books.
After a few more practices, I realized that Jackie had speed. Mad speed. Crazy speed. The kind of speed that many of the girls on my team didn’t have, so I decided that we would use her a base bandit. We worked an entire practice with her running the bases, teaching her how to slide, and going over signs. The next tournament, she met us at the field again, we gave her a uniform, and she spent the entire day running the bases, scoring numerous times. I still found it odd that there were no adults to look after her, and that she would always meet us at the field rather than allow us to pick her up at her home. I had given her insurance and release forms for her parents to sign, and she brought them back to me along with $5.47, which she said was all the money she had from her babysitting allowance. Here’s a kid that wouldn’t even take a water bottle from the team cooler, who refilled her bottles from the bathroom sink at the field – insisting on giving me $5.47 for gas money, she said. We accepted the money at her persistent insistence, and hoped that she would at the very least allow us to buy her lunch during the tournament. (She didn’t, and had brought PB & J sandwiches and saltine crackers for herself to eat)
I could write paragraphs upon paragraphs about Jackie. What she learned, what she taught us, what she ended up teaching our girls, how she humbled our softball moms, how our team came together as one to love Jackie, how she slowly but surely earned the respect of myself and the other coaches. How she was able to somehow, through her joyful and determined and mysterious spirit, help us all relearn why we loved this game. How it was no surprise that Jackie got better. Jackie came to the field every Sunday, wearing passion and heart and want and desire and gratitude on her sleeve carrying her stupid paint-can filled with baseballs and her siblings matchbox cars that dug trenches in the infield dirt. But that’s not my entire intention of this story.
One Sunday afternoon, my team and I showed up at the field to practice and there was no one waiting at the field. Jackie was always there BEFORE us, standing on the pitching rubber, practicing her pitching. And this Sunday she wasn’t. And she never came. And she wasn’t there any other Sunday after that either. After a month of hoping that she would show up, we all realized that Jackie was gone in the same manner with which she left every practice.
My hope is that someone out there in this big world, will come across Jackie throwing baseballs at a paint can one Sunday afternoon, and invite her to practice. That there will be coaches in this world, and softball moms and dads, and players who come across Jackie, or other Jackie’s by a different name, and be able to reach back in their file and remember why they do what they do, and have the open heart to at least invite her to practice while they can.
To remember that in teaching others, in extending our love of the game to someone else, even if that someone else doesn’t fit our ‘current vision’ of what a fastpitch player is supposed to be. While I realize that there are millions of girls in this world who don’t have the means or support to play, it is important to remember that when a ‘Jackie’ crosses your path, especially the way this Jackie crossed ours, it might be divine intervention. Your helping her, your invitation, your extension of good will toward the child, may just end up teaching YOU more than it teaches her.
It’s been 3 years since I last saw Jackie, and our team will never forget her. Every time we visit a new town, or go to a new park, I look for a girl throwing baseballs at a paint can, or trenches in the smooth infield dirt from matchbox cars. My hope is that one day I will turn on the TV and see Jackie standing in the circle, wearing cleats instead of tennis shoes, and that she will have made that big dream of hers come true. Somehow, I know that will not be the case, that a life I don’t understand probably took over and sucked Jackie in. But what I do know, is that I made the life of at least one child better for being in it, and that is something that I will never regret. And that one child helped a whole lot of people, remember why we are all here again, and for that WE are better.
Today. We play for Jackie! For all the Jackie’s.