Dear Future Number 17,
We will probably never meet because you will be starting a new chapter of your life, just as I'm ending that same chapter. Since we might not have the chance to talk, I have a few words of wisdom to pass on to you that come all inclusive with my number.
You and I both know that 17 isn't the prettiest number or the number on every famous athlete's back and, like me, you probably wanted a different number. I personally wanted the number nine, but fate handed me 17 and it couldn't have been more symbolic.
The longer that I have the number, the more I realize that it's not about popularity and it's not about what looks pleasing to the eye on the back of a poster. It's about the numbers that are on either side, ranging from 00-30. 17 in front of me and 13 behind me and the fact that I have a number lesser than 30 on my back at all is a blessing.
Seventeen taught me to let go of playing for the number on my back and start playing for the number on everyone else's back, including the girl who beat me to the number nine. You will soon learn that this team will do the same for you, on and off of the field. You will learn that, when you throw on your jersey for the first time, no matter what number, you are now part of a family that will be there when your real family can't be.
When your grandfather passes away and you are 19 hours from your closest relative, number 15 becomes the shoulder you cry on. When you have been sick and haven't eaten in two days, number 30 will bring you pizza. When you don't know why your car sounds like it's about to die, number 23 is the first number you call. When you have a horrible day, 24 and 22 have you laughing within five minutes or less of coming home every time.
You'll learn that, while these are all just numbers to you now, they will soon be assigned faces and memories that you will never be able to repay or express how thankful you are for them. 17 is such a simple part to a greater piece. It may be an uneven, ugly little number, but it sits between the numbers 00-30 and, to be honest, the further you go on, the more you will realize that's all that matters.
I woke up at 5:15 a.m. on my birthday this year for the 17 ahead of me and I stepped up to the line and ran my sprints for the 13 behind me. It was the best birthday I had so far because, although it sounds like a horrible way to spend any birthday, mine wasn't. I walked in to eat after I finished my sprints that morning and was surprised with a basket full of all of my favorite things.
While a basket full of snacks and candles might not have seemed like much to most people, it was one of the best gifts I have ever received. It showed me that my team pays attention to the little details of my life and we do more than just co-exist as a team. The entire day, my teammates reminded me that I stand in a line from 00-30 and I've never felt so surrounded and loved in my life.
I have one last thing to pass down to you: my teammates. Please take care of them because I promise that they will do the same for you. Make this number proud, but, every day, remind the 17 ahead of you and the 13 behind you that you are a part of something much bigger than two ugly, uneven digits on your back.
The one who wore it last