Every time I show up at the ballpark for one of Sarah Kate’s softball games, I marvel at the simple fact that we are there.
It never gets old, because every game she plays, every time she swings the bat, and every time I see her head out to her place on the field, I am amazed at what I am seeing. My daughter – the kid who couldn’t walk at all until age three, who couldn’t step on and off of a curb without assistance two years ago, and who still can’t jump – is a softball player.
In the beginning, I just wanted to survive the games and practices.
It pained me to see my daughter with her disability, so obviously different from the other girls. I took comfort in the fact that she had good hand-eye coordination, because in my mind the only thing she really had a shot at doing pretty well was the RBI. I was proud that throughout the spring she batted in the middle of the order most games.
But then fall arrived – the low pressure season – and compared to the other girls (many of whom were new to the sport, and younger), Sarah Kate was actually pretty good. Not pitcher good. Not first baseman good. Not shortstop good. But still pretty good.
At the start of last week’s game, the Angels were preparing to bat. I saw Sarah Kate with her helmet on, bat in hand, trudging along the fence in the direction of home plate. As she was close to me, I asked her what she was doing. She gestured to me that she was about to bat. I was confused. The coach’s husband was standing nearby, and I called him over.
“Why is Sarah Kate batting?” I asked.
“What do you mean?”
“Sarah Kate doesn’t bat first. Why is she batting first?”
“What do you mean? She deserves it! She did so great at the last game she gets to bat first.”
I sat back down on the bleachers, stunned. I know that Sarah Kate will never be a great ball player. I know it’s unlikely she’ll ever be picked for all-stars. I know she’s improved tremendously and that she’s a valued member of the team, but…
I never thought I’d see her as lead off batter.
It’s tough to be the mom of the kid with a disability, especially on the sports field. The awkward gait that’s visible but not glaring in a crowded school hallway takes center stage in an athletic competition. But it’s all been worth it to see Sarah Kate reach heights I never thought possible and be a part of something that I thought was out of reach.
And I marvel at the improbability of it all.