When You’ve Played Your Last Inning

Sometimes as a coach you receive some heart breaking news. Earlier this season I answered a call that would not only change my roster but the lives of every person this athlete has come into contact with. She was the type of teammate who kept the dugout upbeat and fun with her quirky personality. A few weeks ago, she hung up her softball cleats and retired her bat (for good). She had played her last softball game a few weeks ago. Did she know? Was she aware that those would be her last games? She didn’t and so the saying goes “play every game like it’s your last” comes full circle for her and her teammates.

My heart aches for her…

As a coach, I know I’m not “supposed” to get attached to my players. But I do. I love each of my girls as if they were my own and this player in particular will always hold a special place. I’ve had the pleasure to coach her since 12U, she was a hard headed, gifted athlete who had no idea of her true potential. For years I pushed her, hoping she would see in herself what I saw in her. Just when things were clicking — the game was taken from her. In the same fashion mine was. My heart aches knowing that she will go through what I’ve went through. The jealousy, the regret, and the hatred. Jealous of those who take the game for granted but still get to play. Regretting not playing 110% in my last game (if only I knew it would be my last). And hatred that the game will not be there the way it always was before.

One day, you will have played the last inning in your last game.

The game ends for all of us at one point in time or another. No matter when or how it ends, it’s never an easy process. In the beginning the free time seems like a blessing. You finally get to go out and do all the things you couldn’t, because you always had softball. But a few weeks from now that feeling of relief will end and your heart will ache. It will ache for the feeling of fresh cut grass under your cleats, the sound of the bat cracking, and the way you felt running round the bases. Today it may be easy but tomorrow is another day, another battle. To outsiders it’s “just a game”, but to those who fell in love with that yellow ball with red seams… it’s so much more than just a game.

When you’ve played your last game. What will your teammates say about you? Would you be okay with your effort? Would you have regrets? Remember, while you strap on your batting gloves and pull on your helmet for another at bat — there is someone out there who has played their last game.