To you this may simply look like a jar of dirt.
But what you don’t know, is that inside this jar lies a fragment of dirt from nearly every field you have played on since I first realized your passion for this game.
By now, I could have filled up 80 jars of dirt, so as time went on, every pinch of dirt that I stole from the softball fields while you were gathering your stuff at the end of the day became smaller and smaller.
Remember the game you made turned a triple play? What about the game that you got cleated in shins and although bloody and bruised and wearing ripped pants, you returned to the field to play the rest of that tourney? What about the game where your team came through the losers bracket way back in 10U, playing 6 games back to back to finally win the championship? You fell asleep in the car on the long ride home, holding your trophy on your lap and didn’t let go of it even when your dad carried you into your bed… In this jar, lies the dirt from ALL of those games as well as from the hundreds of others that you have played over the past 10 years.
The day you hit your first in the park home-run, I got dirt from near home plate that day and it too, is in this jar. But do you notice how even though that felt like the greatest moment of your life, the dirt from that day doesn’t rise to the top? That is how life works. Experiences simply pile up on one another, making you a better person bit by bit, and then one day – your jar is full!
While you probably don’t want to look back and remember that season where it seemed that you couldn’t hit water if you fell out of a boat, I do. And I remember how painful it was to watch you so distressed, moved to the bottom and eventually out of the line up. I gathered dirt on those days too, because I was just as proud of you then as I am now.
I gathered dirt the days you and your team lost every game, and on the days that you won. And anytime we changed fields during a tournament, I gathered more dirt. The day in 14U when you told me with tears running down your face behind a steamy ballpark bathroom, that you thought you wanted to quit, because you didn’t think you were any good after making too many errors that day – I gathered dirt, not knowing if it would be your last game or not. But somehow through the pain and frustration – and by returning to the dirt for the next practice, you worked through your personal struggles and decided to continue on. The dirt taught you how to persevere.
If I ever forgot to get some dirt for your jar, I would simply pull some of your cleats when much to my noses dismay, you took them off in the car.
To you, this may simply look like dirt. But it is so much more than that. Each grain is part of your childhood.
Each pebble or rock or sliver of dirt in this jar has a piece of you.
Your sweat, tears, hard work. Your laughter and joy. Your perceived failures and successes.
Because on this dirt is where you grew up. It’s where you learned some of the hardest lessons of your life and where you have learned how to be a friend, a teammate and put others above yourself. This dirt has taught you how to trust and respect yourself and others. And no matter what life threw your way, it was this dirt that became your therapy on the weekends where you could blow off steam and just be a kid!
It is where you learned just how strong you are and could be, and where you learned to believe in yourself and that it is perfectly okay to look to others for help when you need it. Because everyone needs help sometimes, and no one succeeds all by themselves. Not in softball, not in life.
On this dirt, you grew from a little girl into a mature young woman with a bright future ahead of you. And whatever you do, and wherever you go in life – I hope that you will always look back to this dirt, to this jar of brick-dust and chalk, and remember to stay grounded. To remember where you came from.
To stay humble. To remember that just like in softball – in life – all good things come laced with trials, and all wins come with losses. That hard work is the greatest gift you can give yourself, and that never giving up (even when you may want to) is the true equalizer of your success.
Remember that you will always have to start somewhere small, like on a tiny field in rec ball when you didn’t even know how to put your glove on your hand, to get somewhere big.
Today, I gathered the last bit of dirt from your high school field and sealed the jar. Not because I think this will be the end, but because I believe that the time has come for us to start a new jar. This jar is full now. And it is time to begin another chapter, to start filling another jar with the dirt and dust from all the places you will go.