Sarah Kate opted not to play softball this spring.
I could tell you it’s because she’s having surgery and would miss a big chunk of the season, but I believe there’s more to it than that. Sarah Kate did pretty well in 10U in the fall, but it was a struggle for her. Fast pitch is a lot harder to hit than coach pitch was (partly because most 10U pitchers aren’t very accurate), so the game isn’t as much fun, and the struggles she had just to stay upright stole most of the remaining fun from the game.
A few weeks ago, after spring signups, one of her former coaches texted to ask why Sarah Kate wasn’t playing this season. I explained about the upcoming travel and surgery. She asked if I thought Sarah Kate would like to help out. A few days later she texted me again, wanting to know how Sarah Kate would feel about throwing out the first pitch. According to her, a lot of people had been asking about “Kat” – they wanted to include her even if she wasn’t playing.
Opening Day was last Saturday.
Most years, a local official – the mayor or a city councilman – throws out the first pitch, but this year they had the designated councilman serve as catcher for Sarah Kate’s pitch. The two of them, along with a few other dignitaries, sat in chairs just outside the dugout on the third base side.
Last week we were busy – with the Princess Half Marathon weekend, Mardi Gras, and a million other things – so the only chance she had to practice her pitching was the half hour before we left to head over to the opening ceremonies. Mr. Andi worked with her on both underhand and overhand pitches, and we decided she was a lot more accurate overhand (which makes sense, since she’s fielded the ball but never pitched).
The teams were announced, the national anthem sung, and in no time flat Sarah Kate was trudging onto the field with a borrowed glove from her former teammate, Josie (yes, we forgot to bring hers!)
The ceremonies were being held on the 13U field, so the pitcher’s circle was a lot further back than what she’s used to in 8U and 10U (or what she would have been used to if she ever played pitcher, that is…) The parks and recreation director pointed out a line in the dirt a few feet in front of the circle for her to stand on (you can see it in the third photo down below), but she would have none of it. She walked out to a spot just inside the circle.
She pulled her arm back and I could see that she didn’t feel steady, so she reset her stance and tried again.
Honestly, I can’t tell you what it looked like when it got to the plate. I was so focused on getting her photo that I didn’t look at the ball once it left the rectangle of my viewfinder. I know Councilman Boone got ahold of it, but it took a little diving action on his part (my feeling is that it may have bounced in front of him a little, but I could be wrong – Coach Charli, if you’re reading, tell me how it really went down!)
All in all, I think she was pretty proud of how she did, though she said she could have done better.
As for me, like with so many other things, it was bittersweet.
I know there’s a chance she could make a comeback in softball next season, or the next. I never truly loved softball, anyway, so even if she doesn’t ever play again it’ll be fine – that’s two nights a week for months at a stretch that we won’t be running back and forth to the ballpark, eating Sonic for dinner and chasing Nathan around. But it pained me to think that she might not play again, because I have a feeling in my gut that she’s reached the limit of what she can do, and that she won’t return.
For video of Sarah Kate throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, click to watch below or follow this link.