Thursday, June 19, 2008
Friday night we huddled together one last time at game’s end.
“One, two, three, Sluggers” was our chant.
I’ve spent a good amount of time the past two months at the ball field with 10 precious little girls, players in the Marshall County Dizzy Dean 5- and 6-year-old softball league.
I didn’t really want to coach. But I was asked and asked. And it’s hard for me to say “no.”
Fifteen games later, I’m happy I said “yes.”
It’s been a blast.
Wins and losses didn’t matter in this league. It was all about having fun.
We never even told our girls the score, until we got together in that circle after the game with our hands clasped together.
Then we told them, and it stayed on their minds maybe 30 seconds. They were more interested in the post-game snacks and drinks provided on a rotating basis by our parents.
Our scores were often crazy – 16-14 one night and 3-2 the next.
You never knew what to expect. Surprises were commonplace.
One night a girl from the opposing team tried to take the field with us. Another night I was looking for one of my players in the middle of the game and she was having a great time over on the playground adjacent to the field.
And most nights, if one girl needed to go to the bathroom during the game, a few more suddenly needed to go, too.
A few times I had girls get hurt slightly, start crying and I simply had to give them a big hug and say, “It’s going to be OK.”
On defense, one of the most difficult things was trying to teach them when they had to touch the base for an out or instead tag the runner.
Some of the most exciting moments came from races between fielders and runners. I had one my players run all the way around the bases for a home run with a player on the opposing team chasing her the entire way – only a few inches away.
I had to constantly encourage the young girls to “watch the batter” rather than focusing their attention on something outside the fence – like when the train rolled along the track beside the field at Potts Camp Town Park.
On offense, every girl was a different size, each stood in differently at the plate and each swung the bat differently. Often the best thing I could do, as pitcher, was to try and just hit their bat with the ball.
Pitching is tough for the coaches in this league. And we all wanted all the girls to hit the ball. This age group was all about positive encouragement – no negative allowed.
I just hope all the players, coaches and parents in the other age groups had as good a time as we did this season.
This league is one of the best things going in Marshall County. And our county and community leaders need to take note of that. We need more support.
Marshall County Dizzy Dean brings children and parents together, from all of our communities and from all walks of life. It breaks down barriers. It creates unity and teamwork.
Some girls on my team would likely have never known each other if not for coach-pitch softball.
The same holds true for the parents.
But we quickly became friends.
And the friendships went beyond the individual teams. They crossed communities – from Holly Springs to Byhalia to Potts Camp.
There are T-shirts for sale at season’s end in support of our league and the all-star teams which will represent us in district, state and World Series play. They read, “Marshall County Sports – Bringing Our Communities Together.”
Sometimes, our best lessons as adults are learned from our children. Such is the case when being around the youngsters involved in our countywide league.
The benefits go far beyond the ball field.
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