There are days that you remember as being awesome. February 27, 1988 – nicknamed The Longest Day by my high school buddies and I…September 12, 1998 – the day we broke the streak against the hawks…and May 19, 2011.
Best Day Ever. Seriously.
It is important to remember context here. Last week was recital week. Recital week is notorious ‘round these parts. It consisted of 6 softball games, 2 gymnastics classes, 2 recital rehearsals, a normal dance class on Thursday, 1 spring concert at school, 1 softball practice and 3 separate dance recitals. I was lucky enough to attend all three. Plus we had a morning routine disruption Wednesday when Rye had to be at a band concert practice.
We’re motoring through recital week with virtually no snafus going into Thursday. Nobody was mentioning the relative smoothness of the week because doing that would be like telling the guy on the free throw line with no time left and your team down one…”Dude, don’t miss these.”
We do a quick but thorough check of our after school/work activities. Dance class and three softball games. Plus Grandpa and Grandma are back in town too. They come up every year to see the state track meet. Three future Cyclone football players all ran by the way. Anyway, I rush home, change clothes and head to the softball fields. Mom and her folks are already there. I get there just in time to see Bailey rounding 3rd base headed for home with her second run scored. On the field next to her is Kinsey who is standing on third base getting ready to head home.
Unfortunately, I only get about 15 minutes to watch before I have to head to the Last Dance Class Of The Year and pick up Riley. We sorta lucked out on the location of the dance studio and the softball fields. If you hit the lights you make the trip in under 10 minutes. Made it in 8 two weeks ago. Rye has become an expert at the back seat leotard-to-softball-uniform-switch as we’ve done it at least four times this spring. Thursday she set a personal best change time of three minutes. It’s not easy either. Imagine yourself changing from a dance leotard and tights to softball pants, socks, jersey and cleats. In the backseat. That’s a major kid activity genre shift in both attire and attitude.
I get back to learn that Bails went 5-5. She’s almost freaking Rennie Stennet circa 1975. Five real hits. Not the cheap ones you often get in games played by 1st and 2nd graders. They all made it through the infield onto the grass. Although, one of these days we’re going to have to teach her about rounding first and heading to second. She blazes down the line so focused an entire legion of American Girl dolls could be marching by and she wouldn’t notice.
Kinz went 1-2 and her team won. That’s pretty normal for her but this time she was super excited because she got a hit her first time at bat. Normally, she’ll strike out the first time and then rap one out the second time up. She still goes 1-2 but she’s mad about striking out in her first at bat. But getting a hit the first time, combined with her team winning for only the 4th time this season and the fact that her birthday was the next day…well that is a lot of happiness for a just about to be 9 year-old to contain. And happiness containment is not one of Kinsey’s strengths.
“Dad! I got a hit the first time up! And we won! Can you believe it! And tomorrow is my birthday! And Grampy and Grammy are here too!”
I’m not exaggerating with my use of exclamation points either.
Plus we let them have hot dogs and french fries from the concession stand for dinner. Which, for kids, is like free beer and nachos night for grown-ups.
Then we walk over to the field where Riley’s team is getting to play. Riley has struggled with her hitting this season. It’s not because of bad fundamentals, a weak swing or a bad eye…she just won’t swing the bat. Literally. She’s probably played 13 or 14 games and this is just a guess but she’s probably swung the bat a total of 25 times while standing in the batter’s box. Think about that for a second…2 or 3 at-bats per game…14 games…that’s not really a lot of swings.
So Mom goes out and buys her batting gloves earlier in the week. She’s excited about them. I tell her they are pretty sweet but the only way you can’t look cool wearing batting gloves is if you don’t swing.
Then one of her coaches tells her, “Riley, swing at the first two pitches. I don’t care where they are. You’re swinging.”
Just before the game starts, I remind her that batting gloves are only useful if you swing…and if she doesn’t swing, I’m taking the gloves right there while she’s sitting on the bench with her teammates.
So we’re hitting her from all sides on the whole be aggressive at the plate strategy.
“Don’t worry Dad. I have a great swing. I’m gonna get a hit tonight.”
Her coach overhears this newfound confidence and says, “Okay girls if Riley gets TWO hits tonight, I’m buying Diary Queen for everybody!”
First at bat, she goes up there swings and misses at the first two. I’m beside myself with excitement! She’s doubled her total number of swings from the last two games in just two pitches. I’m ready to call it good and go home.
Then the third pitch. Pitchers winds and throws. Seems as though she took a little off it and I’m thinking that Rye might take it and revert to form. But then again if she’s swings, she’ll be way out in front and strike out. Then I heard it. This weird foreign “plink” sound. It sounded suspiciously like a bat hitting a ball. Then along the 3rd base line there it was…a yellow softball in a shallow bounce just inside the line.
“Rye! RUN!” somebody yelled that sounded a helluva lot like me.
The girl playing third hesitates and then gets caught in that no man’s land between waiting for it to go foul or fielding it and throwing to first…she finally decides to field it…she scoops it cleanly and throws to first…as I look back to see if Rye will beat the throw she’s already standing there getting a double high five from her coach.
I remember my first real basket in 5th grade basketball. I remember the first three pointer I hit the year they added the three point line to high school basketball my senior year. But neither was as freaking cool as this.
She eventually came all the way around to score and as she walked back to the bench her coach says, “It’s gotta be the gloves!”
She strike out her next time up after fouling one off. Which means that she made contact in both of her at-bats. Combine that with Bailey’s 5-5 game and Kinsey’s boundless excitement over her game and the fact that it happened in the middle of recital week and, well, that’s the best day ever.
Although Rye’s team did lose out on the ice cream…