Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Sandra - Auburn, Washington
Entered on October 16, 2008
Age Group: 50 - 65

Dad cupped his hands around his mouth and shouted from his spot next to first base. “Keep your eye on the ball, Sandra Ruth.”

I looked up in time to see the softball arc down toward my place at shortstop. I lifted my glove, felt the smack against my leather mitt, and heard Dad’s yell. “Throw it home.”

Before he repeated the words, the ball was in the air, streaking toward home plate. The catcher tagged out the runner, and we won.

Dad and I practiced hitting, pitching, and throwing almost every night during baseball season, stopping only when it was too dark to see the ball. He taught me everything he knew. How to anticipate the bounce of a grounder, or stand ready to scoop the ball from the dirt, then throw it in one smooth motion. How to catch a pop fly—looking up, up, up as the ball soared overhead, placing myself right underneath it, watching it fall into my glove. We worked on my stance at home plate—knees bent, arms cocked, grip tight on the bat—until I was ready to hit anything thrown at me. No matter the situation, Dad’s advice never varied.

“Keep your eye on the ball, Sandra Ruth.”

When I followed those words of wisdom, I almost always succeeded—I caught the ball or hit the pitch—and earned the name “Slugger” from my teammates.

All through the years, Dad’s words have stayed with me, keeping me focused on my goals. It I wanted to win the high school shorthand competition, I had to practice—every day. That’s what I did, and I won the gold medal. Want the executive assistant job? I did my best as a junior secretary. When the better position came open, it was mine. How about hiking across Spain at age fifty-nine? Months of walking around my neighborhood, up hills and down, led to a three-week-long trek from León to Santiago de Compostelo. Every time I kept my eye on the goal and worked toward it—the competition, the job, the pilgrimage—good things resulted.

These days, I’m writing a novel—a project that has consumed most of my creativity for the past three or four years. I try not to count the time it has taken—knowing only a bestseller will net me minimum wage—but my co-writer and I are now into the final edit. This project has been my most daunting challenge yet. What keeps me searching for the perfect word, phrase, and sentence? I believe it’s those words I first heard over fifty years ago.

“Keep your eye on the ball, Sandra Ruth.”