First, I have some thanks and acknowledgments to hand out.
On Monday, I announced my first bit of awesome news which was
(You can read the original post here)This was one of those things that, really, I expected people to "ho hum" over and say "yeah, whatever." I mean, it was just kind of my own little thing and so many people are dismissive of kids that I didn't really expect people to be excited about it. I was SO wrong. So a big THANK YOU to all of you who have shown your support, but an even bigger thank you to a few people who went an extra step all on their own and posted about it. I can't even begin to express how gratified and grateful I am that you people care enough about this to do that (and did I say I didn't even ask? Well, I didn't!). So... extra thanks and kudos to the following friends and bloggers!
1. Elizabeth Twist
2. Briane Pagel (and he has a plan to give out some free copies, so you should all pop over to his blog and read the rather complicated details about how to earn one)
3. Shannon Lawrence
So thanks guys! Your posts spread through the week making it a week of awesome!
See how that works?
And, now, on to the other awesome news!
My daughter played softball for the first time this year. Not just outside having fun playing softball, she played on a team for a local league. Her team, the Dragonflies, was one of three teams in her division, the 8 & Unders. Let me just say that it was all very interesting.
Of the 10 or so girls on her team, only one had prior softball experience, and that prior experience had taught her that the proper way of hitting a ball with a bat is with your eyes closed. I think that served as an equalization so that it amounted to a team of girls that had never played softball before. One of the girls was five.
The next team, the Fire Flies, was... well, they were just little. I mean, we had one five-year-old, but they had at least three girls about that size, so, even though they had a couple or few girls that had played before the fact that their team was so... small in stature was a distinct disadvantage. Plus, they had coaches that found it hilarious when the girls would do things like run out of the baseline to avoid getting out. And I don't just mean run out of the baseline, I mean, there'd be games of tag going on on the field while one of our girls chased one of their girls around with the ball while their coaches giggled and slapped each other's knees about how cute it was. At any rate, the Fire Flies didn't win any games all season; although, they did tie us in one of the early games (because of the runs per inning cap of 4 which is quite necessary at this level of the game).
The other team, though... well, the other team made our blood run cold: the Blue Ice. They were as big as the other girls were small. And experienced. At least half of the team had prior experience in the league. Basically, all the girls that played last year ended up on that one team. No, it didn't happen by chance, because people were allowed to make requests about what team to have their daughters on, so, of course, all the girls from last year that weren't going up to the next division ended up on one team. I'm not thinking coincidence; although, I have no proof to the contrary.
Blue Ice dominated the games. Most of their girls could hit the ball from the machine pitcher rather than having to go to the tee, and a couple of them could even catch pop flies, something none of our girls ever managed (although, we did have a couple come close). To say that our girls were scared of them would be something of an understatement.
But the coaches worked hard with our girls, and there was a lot of improvement. They went from being a team that almost always had to hit off of the tee to being a team that could hit from the machine almost as often as the tee would need to be brought in. They became a team that could get outs. Even assisted outs, which was nothing short of amazing considering that at the beginning of the season if the ball was within 5 feet of whom they were throwing to, we considered it a good throw. Really, they became a team.
They even, once, beat Blue Ice. We were all stunned. No, seriously, we were completely blown away, because we didn't think they were beatable. Of course, the next game they came back and slaughtered us 12-1. My daughter was the only run to come in that game. That was our last regular game against them of the season, too.
Which brings us to the playoff and the championship. Yeah, yeah, I know. Three teams, but that's how it works.
Tuesday night was the playoff game between the Fire Flies and the Dragonflies. I was bummed, because I couldn't be there. I had this event where I was reading a bit from my book, The House on the Corner, that had been scheduled for weeks, and I didn't feel like it would be a good idea to ditch, so I told my daughter that she had to win so that I could come to see the championship game on Wednesday night. I don't know if what I said to her had anything to do with it (probably not), but they did win. [That was, by the way, only one of two games I missed all season. Just sayin'.]
And there we were... Wednesday night against the Blue Ice after a 12-1 loss to them. We just wanted our girls to do their best. I have to say, though, that my daughter voiced her opinion several times that they were going to lose. It doesn't stop her from trying, because she's competitive that way, but she kept saying it to the other girls on the team, which isn't a good thing, so we had to tell her to stop. More than once.
We were the away team, so we got to bat first. They stopped us at 3 runs. But 3's not bad, right? Right? It's not 4, but it's close. And, as I said to my wife, it was 3x more points than we had scored the entire previous game, and it was just the first inning. Blue Ice went to the plate...
and we stopped them at 1 run. Seriously. Our girls were on it. They made their plays. They held them at 1.
The second inning started, and Blue Ice held us to 2 runs that inning making it 5-1. If only we could stop them again.
And we did. Almost.
It was 2 outs and 1 run, and the Blue Ice girl hit the ball. Our girl at pitcher-right scooped up the ball and ran over to tag the runner. She intercepted her on the baseline, but the other girl went around. Out of the baseline. The Blue Ice coach called his girl safe (no, there are no umps; it's an honor system). The Blue Ice went on to cap the score for the inning bringing it to 4 runs and tying the score at 5-5.
Then there was a... disagreement. One of our coaches called into question the "safe" call, and I joined him on the field (he's my neighbor, for one thing, and I wanted to support him, and I was going to approach the other coach and ask, anyway, so I figured since it was already being brought up, it was a good time, not to mention the fact that all the other parents were grumbling about the call (remember, we'd had lots of issues with this with the Fire Flies)). Unfortunately, I don't have a good sports background, and the other coach started "quoting" rules about how far off the baseline the girls could go, and the decision was that, basically, our girl had not been aggressive enough in trying to tag the other girl and had missed her opportunity. The call remained "safe," and the score remained 5-5.
The situation was tense.
We were up to bat, and we needed 4 runs. The head coach told the girls that's what we needed, and the girls went out and brought in 4 runs; although, they hit 2 outs, so we were all holding our breaths to see if that last batter would be the 4th run or the 3rd out. So it was 9-5, and we needed to hold the Ice back to win.
We didn't do it. Blue Ice brought in 4 runs, and we were left with a tie situation: 9-9. There was a conference among the coaches on the field. Only the Blue Ice coach had prior experience with the league. And with coaching, for that matter. None of our coaches had ever coached before, and none of them had planned to coach at the beginning of the season. It had been one of those "we don't have enough coaches, please volunteer" things. We'd play an extra inning and see what happened.
We were up to bat. Our coach told the girls it was a tie game and that they really needed to get out there and bring in 4 runs. But our 5-year-old was up to bat first, and that was always scary, because she's not the fastest runner, and her batting helmet is almost as big as she is. But the Ice's first baseman missed the catch to first, and our girl made it to base. There was a collective sigh from the parents.
We proceeded to load the bases. No outs.
My daughter was antsy. She wanted to hit again, but she'd hit last the previous inning. She wasn't going to make it back up to bat this time. Either we'd reach 3 outs or 4 runs before her turn came up again. My daughter's the best batter on the team and had the best hit of the game, the only fly into the outfield (and no one actually keeps players in the outfield, because the balls (generally) don't go there unless they roll).
The girl at bat hit the ball, but got out going to first. We were at 1 run and 1 out. Everyone was holding their breaths again. But we brought in 3 more runs without another out. The score was, now, 13-9.
My daughter is also the best fielder on the team. She plays first base because of this. However, she was having an off night with her grounders, and the first Ice batter hit a ball her way, and she let it get past her, and the Ice had a runner on first.
Then, it happened again. Two grounders to first base that my daughter missed, and they had runners on first and second. We were all holding our breaths again.
They loaded the bases. Then, we got an out at third, but they brought a run in. 13-10. Ah, I can't remember where the next out came, but they brought in another run, and we ended up at 13-11, 2 outs, with runners on first and third. The ball was hit, pitcher-left missed the grounder, but the second baseman intercepted it, but she was far from the plate. She turned and ran back to second...
And made the out! Like just a step or two ahead of the runner coming to second. It was amazing! And it was awesome! We held them to 2 runs in an extra inning of play, and I say "we," but I mean "the girls," because it was all them. They did such an amazing job of coming together over the course of the season to become a team that worked together and win the championship. A group of girls with no prior softball experience against a group of girls that were bigger, stronger, and experienced. It was absolutely amazing!
And they got trophies. Which were on standby for whichever team that won with their names on them, to which my daughter said, "My first trophy!" I can't say how proud I am of her and her whole team.
I should also mention the injuries. We went all season with no injuries until that game. Four different girls got hurt, one of them twice, one of them bloodying both knees, but she stayed on third while her knees bled without calling attention to it (and when I say bled, I mean down to her socks, not just a scrape), ran home on the next bat, limped into the dugout and asked for a band-aid. It was impressive. But, you know, there's no crying in baseball.
And here's the application that I'm sure some of you knew was coming:
Writing is kind of like this. You start out all new and inexperienced. You don't know what you're doing. There are some people, like my daughter, that just have an unfair amount of natural talent (that we don't know where it came from (except, secretly, I do know where it came from, because it came from me, because I was just like that when I was a kid (although, my wife doesn't believe me, because there's nothing left of it in me, now (which isn't my fault, but that's a story for another time)))) and do well even without prior experience. There are those that, even though they've played before, have trouble not closing their eyes when they need to keep them open. There are some that are just smaller than everyone else. And everything in between.
To make it worse, you might end up with people telling you what to do that don't know what the heck they're talking about. That think it's funny when you're playing tag on the field and don't know where to go with your manuscript. Or just plain don't know the rules and tell you to do wrong things. Or you may end up with someone that's just after "the win" and doesn't have time for you if they don't see you as someone that can perform.
The real trick is to stay out there on the field and to keep doing your best. It may sound cliched, but it's true that failure comes from giving up and going home. And believe me, over the course of the season, we had all of that. We had bad attitudes. We had crying. We had quitting. We had girls that didn't want to play when they needed to. But all of them kept working at it anyway. They practiced throwing. They practiced catching and stopping grounders. They practiced batting, and, most of all, they practiced working together. And they won. Even when they thought they couldn't.
We all get discouraged. It's tough when you're starting out, and, even if you know how to play, even if you're good, no one believes you because you don't have any previous experience. You have to keep working at it and working at it.
My daughter will be going up to the 10 & Under league next year. So will the coach for Blue Ice. He's seen her play, now, and has complimented her on many occasions. Next year, they'll be drafting players instead of having them assigned or requested. After the game, he told my daughter to "play bad" during tryouts next year so no one else will draft her before he gets a chance to. Keep playing your best no matter what. Eventually, someone will see it.
[And I just want to add that I have total respect for the coach for Blue Ice. His goal was not about winning but about making sure the girls had a good time. And I was in agreement with his call of safe on that one play, or I wouldn't have walked off the field. With the information I had, I was accepting of his decision. I hope my daughter is on his team next year.
And this is funny:
After the game, his girls were asking him who won the game, and he said, "Who's happier?"
The girls said, "They are."
And he said, "Well, they must have won. But we have cupcakes!"
I'm not sure that our girls would not have traded places. Some of them, anyway.]