This year, Becky is playing U8 (under 8) softball for the first time. She's spent the past two summers playing t-ball, coached by Knute who is a natural (both as a player and a coach) and has made the transition from co-ed t-ball (and by co-ed, I mean 2-3 girls on a team with 8-10 boys) to all girl softball.
And my girl is loving it.
In the dugout, she chants and sings and cavorts, climbing the chain link fence with the others until their coach reminds them to get down already and get their batting helmets on.
On the field, she takes her ready stance and watches the pitch as she smacks her glove against her leg. When the ball comes at her hard, she steps to it, not fearing getting hit or hurt. She wants so badly to make the play; sometimes, she actually does.
At the bat, she gives homage to the fundamentals that Knute taught her and teaches all his t-ball kids: bat over the plate; elbow up; step and swing. She hits more than she misses and she sprints through first base.
Watching her play is bittersweet; the athlete in me would have loved to be part of such a fine thing at that age: a team just for girls. I grew up with brothers in a neighborhood filled with boys; I can hold my own at the plate and in the field after years of backyard and street baseball, but I never had the chance to play youth sports geared for girls.
But watching my girl smile big when she hits one, of hearing her goof off with her teammates as they chant that they've got singles in their britches, yes they do, yeehaw! - well, that is the sweet counterbalance to the long gone by "what ifs?" that I'll never know.
That, and the way she holds her head high as she lugs her big bag off the field.
I have no hopes of a sports-powered free ride to college for Becky; what I do hope is that she keeps the lessons she learns on the diamond and carries those with her through life.
Teamwork. Patience. Readiness. Diligence.
And the simple and easily forgotten lesson of just playing for fun.
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