Their spirits light up the fields

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

With her socks wrapped all the way up to her knees and her eyeglasses shining through the helmet, the little girl held the bat with a grip so tight that her hands began to turn pale white.

Kicking the fresh red dirt up by her feet, she approached the plate with confidence and even a little anxiety as she dug her cleats into the hard ground.

Scanning the field, she tried to find a spot that would be perfect for a grounder. Maybe, if she squinted hard enough and held her breath, she might could make it all around the bases.

But before the ball left the pitcher’s glove, she turned around and looked over the crowd.

And with a smile, she found her Momma and Daddy who were already clapping and cheering her on.

Turning back around, her anxiety left. She was ready. She had her team cheering her on, and her parents watching.

And with the warm feeling consuming her small, beating heart…she hit the ball. She made her base. She made her team cheer with support. And she made her parents’ day as she immediately glanced over at them as she stood on her mountain of triumph known as the base…and smiled.

This isyouth softball. This is her life. She is my daughter.

My little and only girl Elsie made her debut on the diamond this week in her first softball game of the season. Coming off a high from making All Stars last season, she was ready to begin her journey again.

Over an hour later, my little girl was jumping into the air with both arms reaching toward the night sky illuminated by field lights. Her team walked away with a victory. And she laid her head on her pillow that night with a grin smeared with the red dirt of the field.

There is no better feeling for me to watch my kids on the ball field. And with all three of my children in the league this year, my husband Jason and I were overwhelmed with how the two of us would balance each game, some in separate parks.

But we will figure it out. It may take coming in on two wheels and literally running to a seat as our kids take the fields, but we will get it done. How? No clue. But we will because we are parents, and it’s just what we do.

It is the one time of the year that eating hot dogs and gulping down Gatorades is considered an acceptable supper. It is the time of year homework is done in the bleachers while we wait for games to start. It is the one time of the year that gloves, bats and helmets roll around in the back seats of our cars.

And it is the one time of the year that our kids can be superstars regardless of whether or not they get a hit, slide into a base or walk away with a victory.

For each game, their tiny bodies are filled with confidence, pride and even a little defeat at times. But after each game, they run into our arms for either a celebration dance or a hug to assure them that next time will be better.

It’s small-town America. It’s reconnecting with ball parents and making new friends. It’s field lights and tornadoes of dust.

It’s the best game in town because it’s kids who aren’t worried about playground politics. It’s kids ready to play, and kids do it better than anybody.

And as my kids gather up their equipment each night and we wash their uniforms for the next game, I am reminded that it’s their time to shine.

And as my little ones make their way around to home plate, I can’t tell if it is the field lights shining or if it’s their spirits.

Put on your shades parents cause it’s looking bright out here.