This I Believe

Ruby - West Palm Beach, Florida
Entered on October 10, 2006

The average collegiate softball fast-pitch clocks in around 55mph. Sure, this is substantially slower than a collegiate baseball player’s pitch, but it all feels the same when you’re knocked in the head and bowled over backwards.

I began playing softball when I was four. I loved the game, played enthusiastically, and couldn’t get enough of it. Then I turned eight, and I started playing travel softball with people two years older. And I got hit by a fast-pitch. Suddenly, I became very aware and conscious of the light-speed pitches I was attempting to hit. What chance did I, as a batter, have against these amazing pitchers?

I believe in learning some things the hard way. As I learned how to get over my fear of the softball—the hard way.

After my batting average fell into the doldrums (the cause of repeated strikeouts), I became a nervous mess. I was already emotional about the game (translation: I would cry if I messed up), and striking out every at-bat did nothing to help my self-esteem.

My future softball career looked bleak, until a most unusual occurrence following a strikeout. I started hyperventilating; I was crying so hard I couldn’t breathe. I must have looked a pathetic mess, and I could feel my teammates’ disgust emanate from their very pores. I wanted to give up, walk away, and never touch a softball again. And that was when my parents reached their breaking point.

Travel softball costs thousands of dollars every season, not to mention time and effort put into accompanying the team. Needless to say, my parents were less than pleased with my dramatics, so my dad decided to take matters into his own hands. One practice-free day he drove me over to the local softball complex. He told me to put on my helmet and grab my bat. I replied with, “I don’t really feel like batting today…How about some fly-balls?” Apparently, this was not an option. So I unwillingly stepped up to the plate—and immediately fell backwards trying to avoid a ball that would have hit me in the side. I knew my dad wasn’t all-star material, but was he really that bad at pitching? I got up to hit again and ducked as a ball skimmed over my head. That was it. I refused to stand near the plate when my dad was obviously trying to kill me. This was not an option either. My dad said that we would stay at the park until I got over my fear of being hit. And we did.

Maybe it sounds a little merciless to throw softballs at your daughter, but I learned a good deal about pitching, batting and, more importantly, myself. This wasn’t just about softball. How was I going to finish anything in life if I gave up at the first sign of failure? Sometimes, you have to decide when to swing, when to duck, and when you just have to take one for the team.