She Thinks We’re Just Playing Softball | softball is for girls
I can remember the unveiling. Cutting open a cake many many years ago, revealing a robust pink cake. It’s a girl. I was having a girl. I honestly didn’t know what to think. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t disappointed. Just terrified.
Fast forward a few years, and ballet shoes and tutu’s littered my house. Being a man who only had brothers his entire life, I had to learn to play with Barbie’s, and had tea parties at a small little table. She would try on dresses and twist and twirl and say, “Daddy – do I look like a princess?” Of course, she did. And of course, in my eyes – she was a princess. My princess.
Each time, I worried or wondered how her and I would connect as she got older and into so many of the things that I didn’t understand, I felt pangs of discomfort about what the future would bring. When I looked at her, all I knew was that I never wanted to lose our connection.
You see, I was a sports guy my entire life. Played multiple sports in high school – competitive to the core. I had always imagined that I would have a son one day – a son to share my passion for sports and athleticism with. A son that played baseball and football, who would be excited that his dad coached him. Him and I would go fishing and all the things that boys would do. I never imagined I would be sitting through ballet recitals watching my princess twirl, and shopping for Barbie cakes, holding the tiny hand of a little girl who wholeheartedly believed I was her prince.
At 9, when she told me she wanted to play softball, I was more than thrilled. Turns out her friends were playing and wanted to be able to do whatever they were doing. Finally, I was shopping for things that I could understand. She insisted on getting a pink bat AND glove, and was not very impressed that the only cleats we could find that day were black. I remember she liked the colorful soccer cleats better and I lost the battle – soccer cleats it was – because they came in pink. When she got home she bedazzled her bat with jewels and wrote her name on the bat in a hot pink sharpie.
I remember the day of her first practice as plainly as if it were yesterday. My little princess – not much of a fan of dirt, without an aggressive bone in her sweet little body, picking up a softball and learning how to throw for the first time. “Daddy look at me,” she would say each time she caught the ball (accidentally) in her glove – or threw the ball as far as she could even though it missed her target by miles. I remember her face, and her pigtails she wore that day, ones she insisted her mom do before we left the house. I remember her complaining that the pink helmet would smoosh her hair. Walking up and standing on home plate and jumping up and down with excitement saying “Look daddy, I got a home run!”
Today, 10 years later, my princess is about to go off to her local college with a small softball scholarship in hand. And I am left reminiscent.
All the days from the first practice to now – all those times she would grab my hand off the couch and say “Hey dad let’s go throw in the yard.” I can remember every little league game she played, the first out she made catching her first pop-fly, her first real ball hit to the outfield her second season of 10U, and all the ice cream cones we had together afterwards. I can hear her cheering with her friends in the dugout, in her 9 year old little voice singing, “We don’t wear no mini-skirts – all we wear are softball shirts.” The echoes from the past always knocking on the door.
I remember the travel ball days starting and the early mornings when it was just her and I in the truck – talking about everything in her life and her friends and eventually boys. Stopping at the same store every weekend for years to grab a biscuit – her getting chicken and me getting sausage. Her laughter and hopes for the day. Some days I think she grew up right before my eyes in the passenger seat of my truck.
Sometimes her team mates rode with us, and I would listen to them talk and squeal with excitement, listen to them sing their songs and get to sit back and enjoy their childhood with them. Just listening and being there, an invited guest to an exclusive party.
I remember the evenings I would come home from work, tired and worn out – and she would jump on my lap with a certain smile and say “Hey dad will you pitch me a few balls in the yard?” A few balls that always turned into a few buckets and only ever ended because we ran out of daylight.
Some days she would come home from school – pick up her glove and a ball and go hit the re-bounder all by herself and this is how I knew something was bothering her. It was my personal invitation to come outside and talk with her, hear her thoughts and share her worries between the tosses back and forth of the softball.
The many days her and I spent together at the fields practicing. “Hey dad – let’s go up to the field,” she would say. And hours would pass and it was just her and I, some dirt and grass, a bucket of balls and a whole lotta love. All of those moments, begotten because of softball.
All that time, she thought we were just playing softball – but really we were doing so much more.
I remember the games. The ones that broke hearts and the ones that she and her team walked away champions. The post game drive home – her completely dirty and tired, just sharing her life with me – her precious time. Each of these moments bringing us closer and closer. Sometimes, I look over at her sitting in the truck and still see the little girl with the pigtails being smooshed by her batting helmet and catch a glimpse of a bedazzled bat.
I am certain that had she never picked up a ball and glove or swung a bat, that her and I would be just as close as we are today. I would have loved her the same wearing ballet shoes as I do wearing cleats. My early fears, were simply insecurities that maybe I wasn’t man enough to raise a daughter.
Even so, I am eternally grateful that I got to spend so many years just playing softball with my daughter. What we have shared through this sport has been TIME. And when you have a daughter about to go to college, you realize that TIME moves really fast. I feel so blessed to have been given the opportunity to spend my time with my daughter on the softball field.
And the best part is….she still thinks all these years, we were just playing softball….