I started the pendulum motion of my arm, brought it forward, and released my grip on the ball. I watched as the ball crossed the plane of the plate, and tried to slow down the beat of my heart. The umpire yelled a loud, reverberating, " Ball four! Take your base!" The beat of my heart had not only slowed down, it had completely stopped.
As I stood motionless, I heard the voice of the opposing coach, " I told you she wouldn't throw strikes." When I finally realized what had happened, my heart plummeted down to my gut and disbelief filled me. I had walked in the tying run, and now I had walked in the winning run. As I walked to the sideline, the depths of defeat engulfed me. At that point, I understood what the agony of defeat meant.
When I finally surfaced from the depths, I found myself riding in my dad's truck. I looked over at my dad, and tried to get up the courage to talk to him. I had never really had any trouble talking to him before, but there seemed to be an impassable waterway between us now. Before I could say anything, he said my name. I turned to him and replied, " Yeah?" My dad paused a moment and agonizingly said,
" Do I put too much pressure on you?" We had met the waterway head on, and it was my decision to plunge in or avoid the obstacle.
With great deliberation, I answered, " Yeah, sometimes." What followed was a conversation that changed my relationship with my dad forever. When the conversation was over, I knew two things for certain: my dad loved me, and no matter how many people I struck out or walked, he was going to be there for me. By the time we reached home, a sense of peace flooded over me. Along with the peace came a strong conviction that overwhelmed me. I realized that the tournament was double elimination, and our team had only lost one game. I vowed to keep our team and myself from drowning in the depths of defeat again.
Losing the first game in the tournament forced us into the loser's side of the bracket, and meant we would have to win seven straight games to become champions. I knew that most of the weight of winning the championship would rest on my right arm. The prospect of this at first seemed daunting, but my dad kept reminding the team and myself of the old cliché " Take it one game at a time". With this thought in mind, we played each game as if it was our last, and gave all we could give. With each strike I threw, I gained more confidence.
All during the regular season that year and the very first tournament game, my thinking had been, " All right, don't throw a ball. Don't throw a ball." After that first tournament game, my thought was, " I'm going to throw a strike." Before, all this pressure built up inside of me, and I was so worried about letting the team down, and mainly, letting my dad down. Now, I knew that my dad was going to be there no matter what, and the only person I'd really be letting down was myself. I had let myself down once before,...