My daughter Kaitlyn is playing on a travel softball team this summer. It is her first foray into travel sports and let’s just say that the season has been less than spectacular. The team has won a few games, but most have been losses, some of which invoked the “mercy” rule.
Last weekend’s tournament involved a triple-header played in unrelenting rain on soggy fields. Oh, and there was crushing defeat too. After the final game, Kaitlyn dried off the best she could and we made our way home.
She would have been forgiven if, upon arriving home, she had spent 20 minutes in a steamy shower, donned comfy pj’s, and slipped back into her Vampire Diaries marathon. I certainly did the first two things on the list, but Kaitlyn isn’t wired that way.
I emerged from my bedroom in warm, comfy clothes and found Kaitlyn sitting at her desk with the laptop open. When I asked what she was doing she told me that she was researching how to manage a pickle.
A pickle occurs when a runner gets trapped between bases and it’s the job of the basemen to either run her back to the base she came from or tag her out. Kaitlyn’s team had put a runner in a pickle between second and third earlier in the day and she hadn’t been sure what her role as second basemen should have been. She was doing research on her own so that she would know what to do the next time it happened.
Here’s the fun part. In the final inning of yesterday’s game, the bases were loaded and the score was tied. Kaitlyn was on third and her coach had her take some pretty aggressive leadoff’s on two previous passed balls.
On the next pitch, the catcher dropped the ball and it rolled to the backstop. Kaitlyn ran most of the way home and as she made her final push toward the plate, the catcher came up with the ball. Kaitlyn was stuck three quarters of the way to home. From her research, Kaitlyn knew that the catcher should try to run her back to third so she waited for the chase, but the chase never came. The catcher threw the ball to the third baseman giving Kaitlyn just enough time to slide into home, beating the throw back to home from the third baseman.
Don’t get me wrong, scoring the game-winning run in heart-stopping fashion is pretty cool. But that’s not the part of the story that makes me swell with pride. It’s remembering last week when the kid could have come home to lick her wounds and, instead, spent time mentally preparing for the next game, the next rundown situation, the next moment that she could make an impact and seeing how it paid off in a way that neither of us could have anticipated.
The pickle is softball. The win is softball. The research, the perseverance, the accepting and taking risk, the being part of a thing bigger than yourself is life. And though she won’t carry the win with her for life, Kaitlyn will always carry the tools that helped her get there and they will serve her well. From now on, when someone scoffs at the idea that sports build character, I’m just going to look at them, smile, and say, “Let me tell you a story about a pickle.”