To the Girl Who Fell in Love with the Game

To the Girl Who Fell in Love with the Game,

Today is National Girls and Women in Sports Day. It’s a day that celebrates what has molded you as a person. This sport will transform you from a girl picking flowers in the outfield to a woman growing into her own.

You never would’ve known when you picked up a ball you’d be finding your first love. A love that selflessly gives.  Because this game gives you what you put in. This game gives you what you didn’t know you needed. It gives you sliding scars, sunburnt cheeks, pulled calves, and broken bats.

Playing ball will even give you a new set of favorite things: sunflower seeds (ranch, specifically), month (October), and pre-game song (Thunder Road). Yet all of those things wouldn’t mean much without the people this game gave to you. Teammates will wipe your blood, share your sweat, and take away your tears.

Playing will bring out the rawest of emotions. Your teammates will be the ones to push you out from your deepest lows. And when you reach those euphoric highs, they’ll be the support that got you there. It’s more than friendship; it’s different than family. It’s spending seven games together each weekend, and still missing one another in between practices. Even years after you last pick up a bat, they’ll be the ones you go to. The lows and highs may be different now -- more intense than slumps, sweeter than home runs. This will be the most important thing the game gives: teammates, rooting you on, long after being a team.

But more than all it gives, the game takes away. Girls are expected to be quiet, passive, and perfectionists. Playing ball will strip those expectations away. You’ll begin to crave the dirt on your skin. You’ll learn to use your voice. Calling for a ball on the field, taking ownership of what’s yours, will soon become confidence in finding that voice off the field. You will learn to compete with others, but more importantly, with yourself.

This game will continue to take away your fear of failure. It’s a game built on failing. As Ted Williams said, “baseball is the only field where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be noted a good performer.” You’ll find the beauty in failure: hitting a ball to the fence, only to have it caught or watching your ball rise over your center fielder’s head. The beauty is in the chance at the next pitch. By losing this fear of failing, you will begin to succeed. You will pull yourself back up time and time again. You will become resilient.

I know we’re told to leave it all out on the field. So yes, little girl who fell in love with the game, give it your all. On that rubber, in the box, during every single drill, play like it’s your last time. Because one day, it will be. Your days won’t consist of playing pepper, pre-game pep talks, and team huddles filled with sarcasm. One day you won’t be waking up at 6 a.m. to spend all weekend with your favorite people. So as much as you leave it all on the field, take all it taught with you. Take it all in, because this game will be the purest love you will ever have. It’ll give and it’ll take away. And you will find yourself, seam by seam.