To The Little Softball Girls,
Here you are, breaking in your first pink mitt, buying your first set of cleats, and picking out your first bat. You'll be wearing knee-high socks, neon sliding shorts, a tank top, and a matching visor with your ponytail poking through. Your helmet will be too big, your bag will be too heavy, and you'll have more empty water bottles than you'll know what to do with.
This is the beginning of something amazing. Every hit, every error, every win, every loss, and every team you play on will help shape your experience with softball. Your teammates and coaches will become family. This can be a life-changing experience if you let it.
There are just a few things I want you to keep in mind as you start on this incredible journey:
Don't play this game because your parents or your friends want you to. Play for yourself. You will be dedicating hundreds of hours, complete weekends, and entire summers to this sport. Play because you love softball and you can't imagine your life without it.
You'll forget about the three-hour-long practices, the 90-degree days, the rainouts, the strikeouts, the sore arms, the skinned knees, and driving two hours for 8 a.m. games. At the time, these moments never seem worth it.
But you'll remember the cheers you screamed for your teammates, the matching bows in your braided hair, the pre-wrap, and the racer-back lines and the farmer's tan that will never ever go away. You'll remember the times spent in the dugout, the championship games, the laughs you had on and off the field, how applying eyeblack was a work of art, and how it felt to put your batting gloves on before stepping in between those white lines.
Play the game
There will be blood, sweat, and tears. Get dirty. Never be afraid to slide or dive. Getting hit by a pitch doesn't really count unless there are seam marks on your skin. Every bruise, every cut, and every scrape is a testament to how much effort you put into this sport. And as "A League of Their Own" says, "There's no crying in baseball." So suck it up buttercup, you've got a game to play.
Use every single play as a learning experience. The long practices and hard work will pay off when you hit your first home run, when you make a diving play, or when you beat out the throw. There is no greater feeling than hitting a pitch with the sweet spot of your bat and watching the ball soar over the fence. Love the game.
This sport will teach you more than mechanics. You learn teamwork, communication, patience, discipline, and dedication. Don't take these lessons for granted. Not many people get this opportunity.
Thank your family
Your family will spend thousands of dollars on equipment, tournament fees, gas money, and sunflower seeds. They will get up at the crack of dawn and sit through the freezing cold and blazing heat to watch your games. They will be your biggest supporters throughout your entire softball career.
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It doesn't seem like it now, but you are the future of softball. You will turn into “one of the older girls" you used to look up to. Years will flash by in an instant and suddenly you're walking across the field on your senior night. Please cherish the moments while they last. Give this game everything you have, play as long as you possibly can, and regret nothing.
I started playing when I was just five years old and since then, I dedicated over 15 years to this sport. I have met my absolute best friends through it. I hope you fall in love with this amazing game as much as I have.
And when people tell you “you throw like a girl," take it as a compliment.