Baseball was my first love. The smell of fresh cut grass still reminds me of my first tee ball practice when I was five years old. It was behind Pinewood Elementary, barely big enough to hold up a glove, that I discovered I did not need to be taught how to hit and catch. The abilities were already inside of me.
I excelled at most team sports I played except for when the clock was suspended, and all eyes were on me. I would collapse if I had to shoot a free throw or take a penalty kick. I remembered this about myself twenty-five years later as I looked out across the field at my boss and 11 co-workers who were waiting for me to bat.
It was a blistering day for our Project 658 spring retreat and with a decisive RBI from the batter in front of me, our team had just won the staff whiffle ball game. There was no reason for me to step up to the plate. A fact that I repeated to everyone’s needling of me to climb in the batter’s box.
“I doesn’t matter,” I said sheepishly gathering up the equipment. “The game is over, and I don’t mind.”
“That’s ridiculous,” my friend said to me while everyone waited in the hot sun.
“Seriously,” I responded, now getting a little embarrassed by their focused attention and goading. “It’s ok. I’d rather not.”
I knew people were ready to stop and spend our last few hours playing in the lake.
“Carrie,” my friend said pointedly and handed me a ball, “It’s ok. Take your turn.”
With her invitation, I went to pick up a bat. Instead of reaching for the one I had used all afternoon that looked more like a caveman’s club with its large, pink oversized head, I grabbed the slim, black one. Better known as the bat for adults and not children.
I threw the ball to the pitcher and took a few practice swings. I told myself not to try too hard. I breathed in deep and let my breath out slowly.
“It doesn’t matter Carrie,” I thought, trying to convince myself. “This means nothing.”
The game rules were standard minus the variation of what constituted a home run. If you hit the ball in the air and over the far sidewalk without someone catching it, then you could round the bases basking in your moment of glory.
The humorous heckling began before my boss’s first pitch. He threw the ball, and I tipped it over my head. More hilarious jeering rang out from the infield, and I laughed. I got so tickled that I bent over giggling and felt deep joy.
Eric threw a second one, and I went after it with all that I had. I connected with the whiffle ball, and it took off into the air like a shot. Before I knew it, it had soared way over the heads of the outfielders and well beyond the home run sidewalk.
I didn’t have to be encouraged this time as I started running towards first base for my game ending, home run loop. After many high fives, I went to find the ball as a reminder. I walked up to my friend and thanked her.
“For what?” she asked.
“For encouraging me from this moment forward to always take my turn,” I smiled.