There was an audible “Oh” from many in the congregation at church when it was announced that my daughter, a fast-pitch softball player, would be pitching for both teams at the annual father/son softball game.  Boys age 12 and up and their fathers were invited.  One dad told my daughter that he was going to the batting cages that week so that he would be ready.  Others simply said, “This will be interesting.”

On the night of the game some of the older boys started talking smack, claiming they would have no problem hitting off of Huh.  One in particular, a senior nicknamed Petunia, was quite confident in his ability to hit whatever Huh threw at him.  “Not only am I going to hit off of her, I’m going to hit a home run.”  This boy has the natural good looks that girls swoon over.  He is very comfortable in his own skin, hence the reason he doesn’t mind being called Petunia.

The game started.  I sat in the stands just waiting for my daughter to show her skills to the doubters.  My mom pride was going strong.  I was sure this would be a no-hitter.  First batter struck out.  Second batter the same.  My pride swelled.  The good-natured ribbing could be heard.  “Man you just got beat by a girl!” 

Then Petunia was up.  “Okay, Huh, give it to me.”  She did.  And he struck out.  I cheered from the stands.

Time for the other team to face Huh.  Strike out.  Strike out.  Another Senior was the third batter.  “Zing it in there, Huh,”  I yelled.  “He’s a Senior, he can handle it!”  The boy whirled around and looked at me with panic in his eyes.  He struck out.  I cheered again. 

In the second inning I saw a change come over my daughter.  She watched each batter as he came to the plate and she purposely slowed her pitches for certain boys.  The young ones.  The boys who came up to the plate with their head down, visibly nervous.  Those who had probably never held a bat in their life but were there to participate in an activity with their dad.  The first boy who actually hit the ball received loud cheers and high fives from his team. 

Huh continued to slow her pitches and the taunts began.  “So, you’re not so fast after all!”

“Thought nobody could hit off of ya!  Well, we’re hittin’ now.  Ha!”

As a mom I bristled and muttered to myself, “She’s not throwing hard, if she was you wouldn’t be hitting it.”  

Huh just smiled at the taunts and kept modifying her pitches where she saw fit.  Every once in awhile, for those who were cocky, she would fire it in there.  But most of the time her pitches were slow.  There was one young boy with glasses who had two strikes on him and looked like he just wanted the third strike to come so that he could go sit down.  Huh threw even slower and he connected with the ball.  It was a slow grounder to Huh who chose to walk to the ball, slowly scoop it up, and then lob it to first base, giving the boy plenty of time to get there.  Of course he was safe.  His team cheered and he grinned.

“What are you doing?” hollered the second baseman, “He could have been out!” 

Huh just smiled and got ready to face the next batter.  Over and over again I saw my daughter modify her pitches so that boys (and some dads) could hit the ball.  She went easy on her stepdad and stepbrother, who both got good hits.  It was clear she was having a good time.

After the game, there were a few that requested Huh to pitch to them like she normally does so they could see if they could really hit off of her.  I left the ball diamond and walked over to where the rest were having a barbecue.  “Well, that was fun,” said one of the dads.

“Yeah,” I replied.  “But I wish she would have thrown as hard as she usually does.”

“But she did what we needed her to do,” said one of the youth leaders.  “For some of those boys who have never played before and those who have a low self-esteem, it was good that they got to hit the ball.”

Duh.

I hadn’t been “getting it.”  My pride had been in the way.  Sometimes I can be so s-l-o-w.

My daughter got it.  She understood that the real purpose of the game was to get fathers and sons playing a game together.  It was to get high school boys interacting with younger boys.  It was to help all involved cheer each other on and build relationships.  She wasn’t there to prove that girls can beat boys in sports.  It would have served no earthly purpose for her to humiliate some of those boys.  She picked up on the need for some of them to look good in front of their peers.  And she willingly helped supply that need in spite of the taunts.

I’m a little embarrassed at my early attitude.  My desire for my daughter to show her skills blinded me to what really needed to happen.  Sometimes it takes me awhile to “get it.”  But, at least I can be proud of my daughter and the way she handled herself that night.  She “got it.”

To me, she is a winner.

 

 

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