To The Game I Love That's Coming To An End
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To The Game I Love That's Coming To An End

After my last inning, things won't be the same

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To The Game I Love That's Coming To An End
Julie Heaton

To the game I love that’s coming to an end,

First things first: thank you. Thank you for teaching me life lessons, thank you for giving me lifelong friends, thank you for being my safe haven and thank you for making me into the person I am today. While I have a lot to be thankful for, I have some things to be sorry about too. I’m sorry for wanting an off day, I’m sorry for complaining about being sore and tired and I’m sorry for ever saying (or thinking) that I wanted to quit.

The sport I fell in love with is softball. But, for other people, the sport may be basketball, lacrosse, soccer, field hockey, football, baseball or anything in between. Sports are amazing. Any game is truly unbelievable. Think about it––people playing on their own, with two other, four other or even ten other people on the field, pitch, diamond or court beside them. There can be anywhere from two to 60 people on a team working together to reach the same goal. It’s incredible.

To those of you who are in the same boat as I am, brace yourself because we are getting old. As a senior in college, I never pictured that this day would come. I'm halfway through my senior season and I can remember my first collegiate game like it was yesterday. I can remember the first time I put on my uniform, laced up my cleats and took the field and now, here I am, about to graduate from college in forty-something days.

Most of us athletes spent every weekend at different tournaments, practices and games. My teams used to practice at least three times a week and then we traveled all weekend to play at least three games a day. As athletes, we collected different things from the sports we love. Throughout our time, we collected friends, memories, MVP awards and trophies along with scars and bruises we couldn’t wait to show off to our friends.

Throughout my years as an athlete, my coaches always told me "play every game like it's your last." Being young, I never really understood the meaning of that phrase, but now that my time with the sport I love is running low, I get what they meant by it.

I never pictured my days as an athlete being over. I never imagined putting my glove away in the attic until I have kids or until I can make time to play in a “beer league.” I never imagined throwing away my lucky slides or all of my socks with holes in the bottom of the heels from wear. I never imagined putting aside the game that taught me so much for a real job and the real world. I never thought about what I would do with my weekends or what it would be like to not have a farmer’s tan from my jersey and a glove tan line. These things never came to mind until I sat down one day, took a look at my senior schedule and saw the very last game on the bottom of the sheet. Right then and there I realized that this is it. The game that shaped me into the person I am will be put on the back burner. The game that took up my entire day whether it was two-a-days, games five hours away or hitting in a beat-up warehouse will soon be just a memory.

I don’t want to forget what it feels like to hit the ball perfectly off the sweet spot of my bat, I don’t want to forget the sound of a glove popping after catching a hard throw, I don’t want to forget what it feels like to get hit by a pitch or walked because they’re scared to throw to you. I don’t want to forget the feeling of the game.

While I will always find a way to be around the game I fell in love with, the game that shaped me, it won’t be the same. I won’t be in the dugout freezing or sweating in between innings, I won’t be the player rounding first base, I won’t be the player diving for balls in the holes. Instead, I’ll be on the other side of the fence feeling nostalgic not about how many home runs I hit, not about how many wins and losses we had, not about how many errors were made, but about what it’s like to be able to go to the field and pick up a bat and a ball to take your mind off of things, and, more importantly, what it’s like to have a family away from home.

One day, after the last inning I play, I’m going to wake up wishing I had to be in the gym by 5 am for conditioning, I’m going to wake up wanting to drive over three hours on a bus, I’m going to wake up wishing there was a way to go back to the beginning and start all over. One day I’m going to wake up and realize that it’s all over.

To those who still have time, make the most of it. Swing hard, work hard and play hard because one day, the sport you love, the one that gave you everything, will be over. It won’t be your life anymore. When that day comes, make sure you don’t have a single regret.

To the game I love that is coming to an end, thank you for being my constant.

Sincerely,

The little person who never quit
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