It was the bottom of the third and we were down by one run. I’d like to say it was the bottom of the ninth, but this is youth-league softball and we only get to play a certain time limit and time was quickly running out.
We were sitting at 0-2 in the young season and desperately in search of a win to boost our confidence. It had been a closely contested game with both teams questioning calls and umpire’s interpretations of the rules. I, of course, am totally opposed to youth-league coaches and parents getting too involved and too competitive, but I am just an assistant coach on one team and can’t control the actions of others. I am also very competitive and like to make sure the correct calls are made and that our girls have every opportunity to win.
After our first two games it was painfully obvious that our girls could not hit the ball. Every time a pitch came near the plate, they were ducking for cover. If one of them decided to actually swing the bat, she was generally looking out at left field instead of watching the ball. It’s very difficult to make contact when you can’t even see what you are swinging at.
Needless to say, we spent the better part of two hours the day before the game working on nothing but hitting the ball. And it paid off.
Trailing by a run our team needed to score more runs in that half inning than we had scored total in the previous two games. It was a daunting task for our young warriors, but we had managed so far to keep the team's morale and energy level high and they seemed to be having a good time.
“We just need a couple of hits,” I told them before getting ready for the inning. “If we get a couple of hits, we win the game.”
“But what if we don’t hit it?” asked our intellectual child.
“That’s fine,” I replied. “A walk is as good as a hit.”
“But what if we don’t get on base?” she asked again.
It’s tough arguing with a 10-year-old. Especially one who is probably as smart as anyone on the field but still one comment away from a complete emotional breakdown. Not having time to get into a deep philosophical discussion about the probabilities of another 10-year-old throwing three out of seven pitches over the plate in the strike zone while facing the pressure of winning or losing the game with screaming parents and noisy coaches yelling throughout the entire process, I simply said the first thing that came to mind.
“You’re going to hit the ball because I’m the coach and you have to do what I tell you.”
Yup … that’s good coaching.
While it may not have been logical, it seemed to satisfy the youngsters who promptly went out and loaded the bases with only one out. The next batter, a girl who may not get a hit all season, was hit by a pitch. She was awarded first base, driving in the tying run and bringing up one of our heavier hitters. With the game on the line, this girl drilled a double to right field, eventually scoring two runs after some indecision on the base paths, to win the game.
We are now 1-2 and ready to make our run. Our next game is against the league’s best pitcher, but we know if you can ever rattle her, she will fall apart. We know this becuase last year she started crying on the mound when she hit a stretch where she couldn't throw a strike.
... Not that we would intentionally make a young girl cry ...