“There’s no crying in baseball.” – A League of their Own
According to LittleLeague.org, there are currently 25,000 softball teams and 360,000 participants worldwide. Growing up, I was a part of that number. Not only did I play Little League, I played CYO and ASA/NSA/Pony. Without any of those teams, who knows how strong of a person I would be today, both mentally and physically.
I started out playing t-ball in kindergarten. Pretty much the only thing I remember is standing in the outfield picking dandelions. It is also the point in my life when I found my first true love: my passion is sports. Thanks to my dad, he had me on the field practicing so I could get better, and to make sure I still had interest in the game. Who knew then that I would end up working for a professional softball team later on…but more on that later on.
Once I moved up from t-ball, I found myself wanting to play the game at all times, which I guess was a good thing since I made a few All Star teams which meant I would play pretty much all summer. In 1997, I was selected to my first All Star team, Woodbury 9-10 All Stars. I’m not going to lie, we had a great group of girls and we were good. We won districts and sectionals and made it to the state championship tournament. Too bad we played a team that believed in cheating and umpires not willing to call illegal pitches. We ended up losing by 2 runs. But hey, no one expected us to make it that far, plus we were missing our main pitchers. After that summer, I decided I wanted to pitch in case we ever made it back to the championship and needed pitchers. Little did I know, two years later we would be back in that situation, only this time we had our full pitching staff.
As luck would have it, two years later in 1999, I made the 11-12 All Star team. It was the same coaching staff, and pretty much the same girls. We became District 15 and Section 4 Champions again. We were headed back to North Jersey for the State Championship. Low and behold, we won all of our games and were in the State Championship again, versus the same team as two years ago. This time though, luck was on our side. We won. We were state champions. To this day no one can take that away from us. After our celebration, we were heading south to Delaware for the Eastern Regional Tournament. This was my chance to shine. I started game one, and we lost. Same thing with game two. I felt like I let my team down. Along with winning, we were honored before a Philadelphia Phillies game. At the time, they were playing at the Vet so we met Vuck in the Eagles locker room, and before going on the field, met Scott Rolen. It took awhile for it to finally sink in that softball is a team sport, we win as a team, we lose as a team.
This lesson was learned two years later on a field in Hammonton, NJ. Only this time it was CYO ball. It was my last game playing for St. Pat’s. We were in the championship against St. Joe’s. I was on the mound and took a line drive to my shin. At the time, we were winning. I did not want to come out of that game. If we won, it would have been the first time in a few years. I wanted that championship more than anything. But, because of the bruise on my shin, I could barely push off the mound. We ended up losing. I felt horrible, but looking back on it, who knows what would have happened if I stayed in. I could have hurt myself even more. So what if I had a limp three days later at graduation, I was proud of my battle wound…
…Speaking of battle wounds, I can’t even count how many scars I know have thanks to playing travel ball. In six years, I played for four ASA teams. I got to travel up and down the east coast doing what I love. I made numerous friends and had great experiences. I’ll never forget the trip to Carlisle, PA, where I pulled off the greatest prank ever against my coach (and had half of the hotel staff fooled), and then my coach jumping over dogs and people chasing a teammate. He was a great coach.
My love of softball led me to pursue a degree in Sports Management in college, where I ended my softball playing days with the Club Softball team. During my senior year, I interned with the Philadelphia Force, a former team of the National Pro Fastpitch league. The Force was a professional softball team who played home games in Allentown, PA. It was through this internship (and ultimately job), I was able to meet my idols, including Jennie Finch and Crystal Bustos, both former US Olympians. These are two women who helped pave the way for softball. If it weren’t for women like them, I wouldn’t have been able to follow my dream of playing softball. So to Finch, Bustos, Team USA, and the rest of the softball players out there who came before me, I say THANK YOU! Thank you for paving the way so I could follow me dream of getting bruised, spiked and muddy…I mean playing softball.