Pride and Prejudice: A Softball Dad Looks Back

Youth Softball Dreams

Pride and Prejudice: A Softball Dad Looks Back


A softball career ended this weekend…

The smile was missing a tooth, and the purple hat that had been pulled on ever-so-slightly off-center couldn’t contain the blonde curls that spilled out from underneath.

It was a sun-drenched Saturday morning an eternity ago that her cleats first met the soft red clay and freshly cut green grass. Some of the other kids were scared, some even cried, but she was a bundle of smiles and energy and fun. Maybe it was because she could see her Mom in the stands, or maybe that her Dad was on the field at her side, or maybe, just maybe it was an instant and natural friendship between the field and the five-year-old. Whatever it was, it was comfortable, it was easy, and from that first moment on, it was destined to be special.

Over the years, the girl in the glasses would learn how to play-boy, would she learn how to play. At seven, she toed the rubber for the first time and from the start she turned heads-sometimes the crowd’s but more often it was the batters ducking a not-yet-perfected fastball. A bit wild and wooly at first, bean balls and passed balls soon became strikeouts and shutouts. At eight, her first changeup helped win her first County Championship.

The future would hold hundreds of games, thousands of practices, and countless after-dinner practice sessions in the yard. Some athletes are born with exceptional ability; others must work hard to hone their skills. The girl with the easy grin had both the talent and the fire, and practice made her nearly perfect.

Clinics, camps, a second County Championship, road trips, tournaments, All-Stars-not every game was won, but every game was fun. Practice and games filled the weeks, weeks became months, and months became seasons. The game that had taken the girl’s heart was now taking her around the state, and would soon take her around the country.


Laughter, tears, pride, pain,
Ice, cheers, groans…rain.
Mercy rules and extra innings,
Lasting friendships, losing, winning.
Glory, sunburn, grass, clay,
Practice, practice, practice…Play.


As the seasons changed, the jerseys would too-there was purple, gold, pink, red and blue. In all of them she played with the passion of a kid and the poise of a pro. The bigger the game, the better she played, and the awards and accolades would begin to pile up. Little League stardom made way for High School Team captain and MVP, District Titles, All Conference, All Area, All State.  She would survive the bitter cross-town rivalries and come out a winner. She kept doing things they said couldn’t be done-she took bigger and better teams to school and showed elite teams the door, knocking them out of the playoffs, paying no attention to her detractors. There were the no-hitters, a perfect game, the High School State Final Four, and records set that may never be broken.

The skinny kid became a terrific fielder and a streaky but clutch hitter with small ball smarts and power when needed. Her will to win inspired her teammates, and outmatched any who dared challenge it. She handled the ever-increasing press with poise beyond her years, always sincerely deflecting the credit to those around her, seemingly always saying exactly the right thing. She earned respect by giving it-to officials, her coaches, her teammates and her opponents. In short, she fully understood the game and all its elements, and played it the right way.

The move to the college ranks saw her survive Hell Weeks and five a.m. wake up calls, cross country road trips and midnight assignment deadlines. The competition level was elevated but she met the challenge, holding her own and collecting a few more awards along the way.

As I watched that final game, 17 years flashed before my eyes, and in a cruel twist of fate the game went extra innings. Truly hanging on every pitch, minute by minute dreading the uncertainty if this was the last time I would see the pony-tailed princess play-and then it happened.
Father Time ripped a walk off single to remain undefeated.
It was over.

Hopefully, she will continue to play the game she loves-strictly for fun now-and with the joy that the curly topped little girl once did. Hopefully, one day she will look back and realize what excitement she brought to her followers, what fun she proved her fans, and what immense pride she brought to her family.

Her name is not important. In fact, insert your own favorite player’s name here, as I know I am far from the first to have tremendous pride in my daughter, and the prejudice that allows me to say that she is, without exception, the greatest player I ever saw play the game.

 Photo credit Zelma Perez