Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reliving the Glory Days

Last night, I was on a mad search for some of Chelsie's puppy pictures to put in a frame my good friend Kim got me for Christmas. I could not find them (and still have not been able to locate them - grr), and in my search came across what appeared to be a random box. I opened it up, only to find it was a bunch of prep sports newspaper articles from my junior and senior year in high school. Orange County did a pretty good job of covering HS sports, especially softball, because it was so competitive. My dad saved a lot of those articles for day, when I have time, I would love to go through them and put them in some sort of chronological order. For me to have time to do this, I think I will have to win the lottery....

Among the articles I found:

List of the 1993 All County Team - I was in some pretty good company that year. Many of my fellow all county teammates went on to have very successful softball careers at various colleges.

Articles about the victories that got us the Woodbridge Tourney Title - we went into extra innings in the semis and in the final game. In the final game, one of our sophomores who had been struggling came up with the bases loaded and on the first pitch, crushed the ball to right center field for a base clearing triple. They had walked our number 4 batter to get to her, and she just absolutely ripped the cover off the ball on the first pitch the other way. Amazing what you can recall - I remembered it quite well as I read about it. That was the top of the 8th inning - I think I maybe threw a total of about 7 pitches in the bottom of the 8th. I believe my senior year we won both HS tourneys we played in - Woodbridge and Cypress. That was a really big deal considering the competition in the county.

Kennedy 2 Garden Grove 1 (AT TWAIN FIELD) - Hey Garden Grove, what the heck is an Argonaut???? So my 4 yr starting class of softball was just myself and one other girl - Lana Jimenez. Garden Grove was our big rival, esp at the their home field, Twain Field. We beat them handily and consistently at our home field (Cypress Arnold Park, Main Diamond - the field I actually grew up playing on) but we could not for the life of us beat them on their turf. Our freshman year, we tied them 1-1. The game was a 20 inning game, called for darkness. Lil old freshman me had the RBI for our one run, and the last out of the game, I threw the catcher out on a ground ball in the hole at shortstop that was arguably in shallow left field. I should qualify this by saying anyone other than the catcher would have beat this easily...but 20 innings in a squat position tends to make your legs a little tired. Anyway, the article was on our last game at Twain field...the game that finally gave Lana and I our vindication. We were up 1-0 and they tied it in the 5th, on an unearned run. Flashes of 20 innings went through my head...I knew I could pitch as long as I needed to (soccer conditioning had me in really good shape for pitching!) but dear lord, 20 innings? Well, my good friend Kristi Hensel took care of that for us. In the top of the 7th, she hit the ball into the gap in left center - it rolled to China and she was around 3rd when they got to it. Kennedy 2 Garden Grove 1. Finally. :)

And finally, I have kept this letter I got from my chemistry teacher junior year - it came to Ohio State with me, through all of my nasty college apartments and now is housed in my nightstand drawer. This was after we lost in the CIF Semi Finals to one of our biggest rivals, Cypress High School. My freshman and sophomore year, we had one of the top pitchers in the county and I did not see much time on the mound - which was fine with me. But my junior year I pitched exactly about half the games, and we were very successful because when I pitched, our other pitcher (a freshman) played shortstop, and vice versa. I threw down and out, Lisa threw high and harder than I did. It was a great combo. I was given the ball in that game, and my usually reliable defense let me down a lot that day. In fact, I remember the first error of the game was hit to my friend Laurie at second base...she bobbled it and the girl got on...I remember laughing at her because of it...but 5 errors later, I was not laughing so much, because it really wasn't funny anymore. After the 5th error, I had one of those "Oh Sh*t" pitches, where I let go of it and knew I was in trouble. The girl crushed it and the runner scored from 1st base - we got the girl out at third, so that was the only damage of the game. However, it was enough, and we lost in the semi finals 1-0. Here is the letter that my chemistry teacher, Mr. Murray, sent me 1st period of the next day.

Nicole -

A small not to you before I see you, per 4, Wed.

Of all the 100's of softball games I have seen over the years, rarely - maybe 2-3 times - have a seen a braver effort by a pitcher to stop a disaster waiting to happen. It was so sad to see your confidence eventually, finally dribble away after the big hit that scored the runner from 1st base, on based courtesy of Kennedy's 5th error. (Maybe the left fielder would have been 4-5 steps back without a runner on 1st base?)

Whatever. I just wanted to write this small not to let you know that I was very proud of you this afternoon, even though the official records will show you as the losing pitcher. What went on behind you eventually did you in. I am sure the whole team knows this, but I just wanted to say it too.

Nicole, I have watched the best - HS and college and in truth, this game should be in the 18th inning...continued to Wednesday!!!

Larry Murray

Let's just say the tears started flowing again after that on Wednesday morning...yep, can you imagine me a crier??? Haha. I have often wondered what happened to Mr. Murray, but I have kept this letter and have read it time and again. I read it a lot when things weren't going as planned in my college softball career - and still to this day pull it out and read it quite frequently. Maybe I need to frame it and put it up in my buckeye room...because it is that special to me.

And finally, as someone who watches a lot of college sports, I hear this all the time:

"There are 380,000 NCAA athletes, and nearly all of us will go pro in something besides sports"

No truer words have been spoken. Hard to believe that this little game I started playing so young because I wanted to wear cleats would eventually fund my college education. This past Thanksgiving, I found an envelope in my jacket pocket from my uncle when I was in it was three pictures, one ot them of me in 1977 with a glove and a ball (I was 2 1/2)....I guess you can take the girl off the field, but you can never take the field (or the competition) out of the girl....right Natalie???

No comments: