Monday, June 22, 2020

Thank you, Coach.

Cate was only three years old the first time she told her Daddy and I that she really (really really) wanted to play softball.  Her dad stayed on the lookout for teams. And even though she played soccer for a few years, and swam competitively as soon as she was old enough, it wasn't until she was 7 that we found a softball program for her to try.

Her little Firestorm team with the Paradise Valley, Arizona Softball league was purely delightful to watch. The parents had fun in the stands. The coaches showed respect and admiration for their young players and instilled great sportsmanship along with fundamental basics of the sport. We loved every minute.

After several seasons (both Fall and Spring ball) with the same coaches and team, we moved to Mississippi. By then, Cate was 9 and her passion for the sport had only grown. She opted to try a tournament team and see if she enjoyed the more intense level of play. 

Of course she did.

She has played catcher, pitcher, first base, any where her team needs her really. She can hit the ball like crazy at bat. And she smiles from ear to ear the entire time. The entire time that is except when someone is trying to steal to home....and then her face is fierce.

Getting to start at catcher for her school's high school team while in 7th grade was a highlight of our years in Mississippi. Those girls poured into her and she gave that team her very best. It was beautiful to watch.

Dad researched, studied, and even drove around looking for the area softball fields so he could get a sense of the teams before we moved to Delaware last summer. And man, Cate has landed on a great team. I can honestly say that the young women playing as the Brandywine Blast are the most supportive young people I believe I have had the privilege of meeting. Their support echoes throughout practices, throughout games, and throughout the week via text, phone calls, social media.

Covid-19 has cost them a lot of playing time this Spring. They are softly returning to the field with social distancing precautions, coaches wearing masks, rules about fist-bumps and high-fives....but they are returning. 

Saturday we had to opportunity to play a game (were supposed to play two but the second was rained out.). The Blast gained an early 2-0 lead but the Lions roared back if you will and soon we were down 3-2. Cate was on the mound at pitcher and I was quickly becoming re-acquainted with the complicated emotions of being the pitcher's mom: beaming with pride, attempting to use my mind-powers to help her hit the strike zone, and willing myself NOT to call her baby (Full disclosure: This was only marginally successful as after two different particularly hard calls, I may or may not have yelled, "Shake it off, Baby. You've got this." Sigh.).

The Blast ended up winning 15-3. My girl did not need my mind powers.

We left the field soaked through from the rain that blew in, but elated to be back playing and eager for the next opportunity.

But yesterday -- barely 24 hours after the game -- we received word that one of Cate's coaches died suddenly while on an early morning run. 

We are heart-broken. Just absolutely heart-broken. And though I am so new to this group and don't know the families as much as I would had this been a typical softball season, my heart so overflows with gratitude for these men who give of their time and energy to coach my daughter.

Coaches carry the power to build up, the power to teach, the power to grow a passion -- or squelch it. And though we have had fabulous coaches in our softball tenure (only really one that briefly made my blood pressure rise....), this group -- Coach Garrett, Coach Mike, and Coach Jeff -- are truly exceptional.

Coach Jeff was the quietest of these three. But his guidance no less important. His quiet instruction during practice will create a void. His steadfast voice behind first base will be hard to replace. And most importantly watching the evident pride on his face when his daughter took to the field will be irreplaceable. My heart hurts.

Thank you Coach, for your willingness to serve, encourage, mold our young player. Thank you for the time you took to pour into Cate's life. Thank you for using your life to enrich others.

You made an impact on these young lives. You made an impact on the parents. You are already missed.

Carol - The Blessings Counter