(Prompted by this article in the Globe)

My first summer of junior league softball was going well. The transition from baseball had been a smooth one – I wasn’t the most naturally gifted athlete, but I had a chance to see what positions I most enjoyed and to compete against the girls I would come to see on opposing junior high and varsity squads in the years to come. Our record, if I remember correctly, wasn’t particularly impressive, but we were having fun and learning each game or practice.

There was word around the league that a girl from another town was blowing away batters with her high-speed pitching. Lisa was the first real fastpitch softball pitcher the area had ever seen. Batters were scared, parents were frustrated, Lisa’s hometown was thrilled.

By the time our two teams were scheduled to meet up, I was terrified. When I think of that first encounter, I still imagine her larger than life, with muscles on that right arm that bulge and a sneer on her face. I took my time getting into the batters box to face down Godzilla.

But I did. I believe I struck out each time, although I did hit a foul ball once. We lost the game – badly – and continued through the season. Lisa’s team went on to be undefeated.

Of course it sucked in the moment to know that you were probably going to lose, even before a warmup pitch had been tossed. But the idea of not playing Lisa’s team – or not letting Lisa pitch in the league – never even crossed my young mind. Of course you play. You play the best and try your best.

How else do you improve? How else do you know what greatness can be and aspire to reach that point yourself?

I faced Lisa a few years later, when she was a senior and I was a freshman. She seemed smaller than I remembered, less terrifying. I was ready for her, having honed my skills and earned a starting spot on the varsity team.

I didn’t strike out once.

Advertisements