The Game That Will Always Have My Heart
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The Game That Will Always Have My Heart

I can't say that I don't miss suiting up to pay every day

The Game That Will Always Have My Heart
Julie Myers

Gameday. You put on the new uniform, lace up your cleats, and grab your favorite baseball hat. You head over to the fields, the bag carrying everything you'll need for the day in tow behind you. The smell of spring is in the air, mixed with dirt as the field is drug over and over again to smooth any cleat marks, making it look perfect. The grass is cleanly kept, and the lines are an undisturbed, perfect line of chalk. The pitcher's mound is a perfect circle. You carry your things to the first base dugout -- the side your team always gets out of superstition. Today the game is on your turf, so you feel a sense of control.

After goofing off for ten minutes waiting for the rest of the team to arrive, it's time to get started. You take two laps around the field, then take a little too long stretching out. You grab your throwing partner, the same one you've had all season, and begin loosening your arm. First, you start close, lazily flipping it back and forth. You gradually work your way up to around the distance it would be throwing from the outfield to home plate. Once you're tired of throwing, you call out to your partner and ask if they're good, crossing your fingers they say they are. Of course, they're tired of throwing, so you guys begin to walk off to get hitting set up. Now that one pair is done, the rest of the team follows suit, and hitting practice begins.

Your pitchers and catchers go first. You roll out the fence on wheels so your coach has a little protection from those line drives up the middle while she soft tosses to batters. Hit after hit goes by, the rest of the team fielding and throwing their catches to that one teammate standing by the bucket. This person is always ready to take the balls in when they're called for and sneaks in to hit themselves without any negotiations with the rest of the team. In the meantime, the batter in the hole is hitting off a tee into a Bow Net. Once the pitchers and catchers finish, they walk off to warm up while the rest of the team begins to hit in the order of the lineup. You're in first.

You grab your DeMarini, put on your all black batting gloves, and get to work. You take a few practice swings and pull the bat behind your head to warm up your arm muscles. You take a few reps off the tee, alternating between solid hits and bloopers. You move around to work with inside and outside pitches. You especially work on outside pitches, since you're constantly aware that that is your weakness. Finally, you step up to the plate, ready for some somewhat live pitching from your coach, and ready for the first hit.

Off the bat you know you're rolling your wrists too soon, judging by the number of ground balls coming off of your bat. You evaluate what's wrong, get feedback from your coach, practice your swing again, and then step back in. She pitches. You swing. The sound as your bat connects with the ball right in the sweet spot brings a smile to your face that remains all the way through your follow through. You watch as it soars up, up, and then finally over the fence. You're back in your groove.

The other team arrives and begins to unpack. Your hitting warm-up is coming to a close, and you prepare to take infield. Everyone gathers in the dugout, grabbing Twizzlers for between pitches and Big League Chew, the two important pieces for good luck. You gather outside around the on-deck circle, chattering and making jokes. Finally, you raise your glove hands up, yell your mascot, and take on your position. Each player is sure to still avoid stepping on the new white lines almost subconsciously while they focus on the task at hand. Your glove is flawless today, missing absolutely nothing. You field every ground ball, catch every pop fly, and cover every bunt. Your throws are phenomenal, exactly where you'd want them to be each time. Confidence seems to seep from your pores. You're game day ready without a doubt.

But now, it's no longer practice. You don't know which ball will come to you and when. You're constantly thinking of where you'll make the play if the ball comes to you. Pop fly to the outfield? Is anyone on base? No? Then just catch that sucker. Is someone on second? Catch and be ready to throw home. What if they bunt? Depending on what bunt coverage you're in, you may need to cover a base. You're on your toes each pitch, moving with each foul ball. One strike, two, then three. You yell out an encouragement to your pitcher while the infield runs in and exchanges high fives with her. Three outs.

You're up. There's no one before you. No one to tell you how the pitcher looks or what they're throwing. You don't know if they're inside or outside, high or low. You don't know how the umpire is calling them -- you just have to find out. You take practice swings and time up the pitches the best you can. It's time to step in.

You take one pitch, timing it up. Strike one. It wasn't a perfect pitch, so there was no need to swing yet. She's a decent speed, but undoubtedly hittable. You look down at your coaches for any signs, then step back in. Pitch. Ball. You go back and forth until finally, the count is 3-2. You would walk or get a hit, but either way, you need to get on base. Your heart rate is going up, and your nerves increase with each foul ball and close pitch. Pitch. Hit. Line drive.

I could go through an entire game in my head, or even in this article. I could go through all the highs, like driving in the winning run or hitting a home run over the fence. I could go through all the lows, like watching a third strike go by without even an attempt to swing. I could just sit and talk about high school softball and the feeling of the possibility of a state championship, or summer ball and gaining your first tournament win and all the T-shirts your pile up over the years. Regardless, the game holds a special place in my heart. Watching it is not the same as playing it. I'd be lying if I said I didn't miss playing it, regardless of how I might have complained in the season.

I miss having spring break filled with games instead of vacation plans. I miss the feeling of a hit so perfect you don't even need to look where it's going. I miss the close calls at home and diving back to bases, getting so dirty your mom can't help but sigh when she washes your uniform after the game. I miss doubleheaders, hitting doubles, and Double Bubble gum. I even miss rain delays and the awkward tan lines from razorback jerseys. I miss both the close games and the blowouts. I miss the win streaks. I miss the game in general, and I wish I wouldn't have taken for granted all the months that I was completely absorbed in it. Senior night just seemed so bittersweet. It didn't feel like the end.

So to those of you who are fortunate enough to still be in the game -- savor each moment. Embrace all the ridiculous superstitions, the feeling of your first at-bat of the game, the pickles you get into and win while running the bases. Get as dirty as possible, slide head first, and perfect that swing. Before you know it, you're going to run out of seasons. Make sure you made the most of them and enjoyed every second of them. You'll miss it when it's gone, but the love for the game will always have a hold on you.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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