McCarley's Inside Softball Stories: Playing for the young girls who love the game
Monday, April 25, 2016
McCarley's Inside Softball Stories: Playing for the young girls who love the game

Hello Softball lovers,

It has been a while! I apologize for leaving you all hanging last week, but the end of the semester is kicking this junior English major’s rear. We have a lot to catch up on!

I want to begin by taking you back to Sunday, April 17. We had all just showered at Stetson, and we were about to head to the airport to come home.

Someone got on Twitter and shouted to the whole bus, “Riley was baptized at church this morning!!” After we all got our phones out to see it for ourselves, we texted, called, and shared in her joy! What a wonderful surprise! Monday was filled with many tackle hugs for Riley. We could not have been happier to have another sister in Christ!

This past weekend we made our way to the city to our East that seems to perpetuate an orange haze and the tune of “Rocky Top”.  Welcome to Knoxville. This weekend had been on our radar since the day we opened our binders in the fall and saw our schedule. It is not too often that we get to play two nationally-ranked teams so deep into our season.

Saturday we did not have a game until 7 p.m., so we walked around campus, almost got charged with trespassing (apologies to UT campus police), had team study hall, and watched the Tennessee/Oklahoma game together as a team in order to prepare for the next day. That night we played a heck of a ballgame against Radford and won in walk-off fashion1-0 in the bottom of the ninth.

Sunday morning we played Oklahoma first and then faced the Big Orange. About half way through the Oklahoma game, the Tennessee fans began pouring into the stadium. And they didn’t stop.

The thing that struck me the most about this weekend was the number of little eyes watching our every move. There was a moment when Tanner and I were warming up for a game, and four or five young girls poked their heads over the rail to watch us throw. Two or three others pushed at the gate trying to see through the cracks. Although they wore orange, they did not care what team we played for. We were college softball players, and nothing would have made them happier than to sit and watch us throw in the bullpen for hours.

I say this with confidence because once upon a time I was that little girl, and so were all of my teammates.  I promise it seems like only last week I was standing at my Dad’s elbow in awe of how hard college softball players threw. They seemed so big and so talented, and I wanted nothing more than to be one of them one day. At some point we all blinked, and here we are almost finishing our first, second, third, or fourth year as a college softball player.

The little girls at the field this weekend, along with the young girls who come to our home games, serve as a great reminder of why we play the game we do.

We tear up our bodies and lose sleep for the girl who wore knee pads, shorts, and ribbons. We cry through tough losses and rejoice in victories for the girl who played from sunrise to sunset and played five games straight to win that 12U tournament.

We play our hearts out for the girl who looked forward to every Tuesday night because it meant game time with her best friends. We play for the little girl who wanted nothing more than to be exactly where we find ourselves today, and that is something to be proud of.

As always, I finish the week thankful. I am thankful for Riley’s decision to follow Christ in baptism. I am thankful for joy. And most of all I am thankful for young softball players who remind us all of the little girl inside of us and how lucky we are to play the game we love.

Until next time,