Archives For Softball

Girls of Summer Series

Friday night was the kind of night that every baseball fan dreams about. After a brief bout of showers about 20 minutes prior to the 7:05 p.m. first pitch, the clouds parted and it was as if God declared, “Let there be light…and a gentle breeze…and a crack of the bat…and soft serve ice cream…and, finally, toss in a good-hearted heckler to top things off.”

Werner Park and the Omaha Storm Chasers did not disappoint. Despite the home team falling to the visiting New Orleans Baby Cakes 13-2, my daughter and I got to experience everything I hoped we would.

 

Heidi and Jaycee

To start the night off, former MLB catcher and first basemen, Mike Sweeney, signed autographs and gave an interview that was broadcast for fans to watch on the stadium’s big screen during pregame warmups. Two things he said that really resonated with me:

First, he quoted Pope Benedict XVI by saying,

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

What a wonderful statement for children and adults alike to hear from a Hall of Famer!

Secondly, he spoke about an unwritten rule that he has for the Little League players he coaches. If one of his players gets plunked by a pitch in a game, that player’s mom or dad needs to buy him ice cream. If that same player doesn’t cry after getting plunked, that ice cream better have toppings. If the parents don’t oblige by that rule within 24 hours, they aren’t allowed to come to the next game. (Incidentally, I have a rule that my softball girls will earn a pack of gum anytime they get hit by a pitch and don’t fuss about it. Glad to know I’m on the right track!)

Autograph signing

Mike Sweeney bobble head

Sweeney played his first 13 seasons in the Majors with the Kansas City Royals, so it was really cool to see him make a return visit to Werner Park, home of the club’s Triple-A Affiliate.

Speaking of Werner Park, what a place to be with a nine-year old kid! I could go on and on about all of the amenities the place has to offer, but let me just summarize everything by saying…I MADE IT 8.5 INNINGS BEFORE MY DAUGHTER WAS READY TO LEAVE!

Below are some highlights from the Centris Family Fun Zone, a special area of the park specially built for young fans.

Rock Wall

 

thumbnail

Needless to say, we’re looking forward to catching another game on May 25 versus Round Rock. And because the next game will be a Friday night home game, all fans will be able to watch the skies light up as part of a post-game fireworks show.

The Omaha Storm Chasers approached me and other mom bloggers to provide sponsored content to raise awareness of their organization. I would like to thank Marketing & Promotions Coordinator, Andrew Asbury, for giving me this opportunity.

Advertisements

Girls of Summer Series.png

I am on my second summer coaching my daughter and her teammates in fast pitch softball. Although summer is the season when the actual league and tournament games occur, there are several months of off-season practice that go into this commitment as well.

After spending so much concentrated time together, I can say with utmost certainty that I am learning as much about how to play the game as they are – because I am experiencing it all over again through the eyes of 9-, 10-, and 11-year-olds.

A sport (or really any endeavor) that involves 3/4 of the year HAS to be enjoyable for kids and adults alike in order to stick with it.

Parents tend to view the duration of their kid’s playing days as a sign of success – the longer their son or daughter competes from the time they are toddlers until the time they are young adults, the better.

For an athlete, the length of their playing days has everything to do with talent, drive, and (I’d argue most importantly) an innate love of the game. The older one becomes, the higher levels of competition they’ll inevitably face, the bigger the stage gets on which they’ll play, the harder it will be to mentally and physically stay in the game.

I’d argue then that the greatest sign of success is an athlete playing the game they love for as long as they can.

My family and I live in Nebraska in a suburb that is adjacent to Omaha, the state’s largest city. While Omaha doesn’t boast a professional baseball team, it does host the Omaha Storm Chasers – a minor league team and Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals.

These players who don the blue and gold jerseys are hardworking men who are pursuing their passion every time they step foot on the field. I’d imagine that game time is one of their most favorite times.

My daughter and her teammates are just starting to understand that the time you invest in practice really can pay off in games, little by little. There is no fanfare in taking batting practice or hitting off the tee indoors when it’s freezing outside. It’s rarely fun to take grounders or work on cut-off throws when the peak of summer temps are weighing you down.

I think every young athlete should be given the chance to watch an older athlete in order to dream about possibilities ahead. To remind them that hard work CAN pay off.

In order to help celebrate the franchise’s 50th season, I am looking forward to spending two nights with my daughter at the Omaha Storm Chasers’ family-friendly stadium, Werner Park. Tonight will be game 1, followed by game 2 on May 25. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Mother’s Day than with my budding ball player.

I hope you enjoy reading about the memories we’ll be sharing together.

The Omaha Storm Chasers approached me and other mom bloggers to provide sponsored content to raise awareness of their organization. I would like to thank Marketing & Promotions Coordinator, Andrew Asbury, for giving me this opportunity.

Holy crap, how could 10 full months have already flashed before my very eyes?

10U Lady Cougars team

Special thanks to Kiki’s Kaptures for taking team and individual photos this year! Visit Kiki online at http://www.kikiskaptures.com.

 

I entered this volunteer “job” with a stellar resume – one year being the assistant coach in a recreational coach-pitch softball league. I’m happy to say I only hit one girl that first summer.

I bet you didn’t know that this vast experience automatically qualified me for being named head coach of a more competitive, yet not overly dominated by adults, youth fast pitch softball team. Neither did I. Yet I was offered and accepted this role back in August 2016.

Girls fast pitch softball divides their levels of play into two-year increments. Therefore, the earliest that girls start competing in games where they or their teammates perform windmill pitching in my home state is 8 and under (keep in mind the “under” can be as young as 7 or, GASP!, 6 years old), which is more commonly referred to as 8U. Once girls age out of 8U, they move on to 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, and finally 18U. A select few move on to play in college and an even more select few play as professionals or (in those years when the sport of softball is included) as part of the Olympic games.

I think the 10U division best suits my personality type and patience level. There have been many moments in life when I wouldn’t mind being that age again, so hanging out with this particular group of girls turned out to be good for my soul. However, I wasn’t sure how the season would unfold back in those first few months last summer.

softball bruise

We definitely took some bruises early in the year…literally and figuratively.

 

Back when I was asked if we would be doing “bumping” practice (translation: one of my girls wanted to know how to bunt). Back when we devoted several hours at three different practices on leadoff timing, only to watch half the team stand like petrified deer completely upright on top of every base with zero clue of what to do once the ball left the opposing pitcher’s hand. Back when not one, but two players, got hit smack in the face by their throwing partners because neither of the pairs knew what in the hell was going on during warmups. Back when I was more concerned about the team as a collective making any contact with the ball whatsoever at the plate versus raising any single individual’s batting average.

Our saving grace is that we had several pitchers who could throw strikes on a consistent basis. It was as if the softball Gods looked down upon me and said, “We will bless you with good pitchers because we realize you don’t know jack about how to teach that.”

tourney time

Strong in the eye black category.

 

For all of the mental and physical player miscues, there were equal if not greater amounts of coaching blunders on my part. Those times when I had to be reminded of the code to get into the hitting facility or practice field because I failed to save a simple reminder on my phone. The times when I frantically texted parents about my anticipated tardiness to practice when my real job ran late. The time when I not-so-subtly reminded an opposing team’s coaching staff about the age of one of the players I was teaching as they barked out their objections to her leaving the base early while they were annihilating our lesser experienced team. The time when I expressed my opinion to a home plate umpire who got in the way of a throw to cost us a potential out.

Boy was it a learning year for ALL involved. I didn’t always give the game back in the heat of the moment, but I’d like to believe I tried my hardest throughout the year.

And here’s the kicker: This hodgepodge group of girls, the majority of whom I had never met prior to last summer, has made an infallible imprint on my life.

park play

They believed they could do great things together…so they did.

 

I handed out certificates of recognition to each of them. I purposely chose to do that before the end of the season because I’m not always the best with goodbyes. These certificates encapsulated what I felt each girl brought to the team. I promised the parents in the form of a letter that I handed out at the beginning of the season that each girl would know, regardless of her natural talent and coordination levels, she has a vital role to play on this team.

Below is a listing of the descriptions on those certificates of recognition. My hope is that the girls will remember being called out in front of their peers and parents – not for something they fell short on, as unfortunately happens far too often in youth sports, but for something spectacular that they accomplished.

  1. Team Toughness Award
  2. Leaving it ALL on the Field Award
  3. Spark Plug Award
  4. Small but Mighty Award
  5. Powerful and Patient Award
  6. Leadership by Example Award
  7. Maximum Effort Award
  8. Grit and Fit Award
  9. Killer Instinct and Curiosity Award
  10. Smiles for Miles Award
  11. Strength in the Batter’s Box and Giggle Box Award
  12. Persistence and Positivity Award

I am willing to put money on the fact that, even into their early adult years, many of these recognition descriptions will still ring true about their core personalities. I had the privilege of watching so many innate strengths come to life.

To the 2016-2017 Lady Cougar 10U softball team, all I can say is you helped me evolve as a person this year. You proved to me that very small bodies can do very big things when they put their minds to it. I love to watch you play.

Written by Heidi Woodard