To the Game that Changed My Life, Thank You

I was 4 years-old when I found my first passion in life. My parents gave me a softball glove as a Christmas present and nothing would ever be the same. That glove became a part of me. I took it everywhere and even slept with it. I remember waiting in the front yard with a ball and glove until my dad got home from work. He would sit on the steps leading up to our front door, would roll me the ball, and I would throw it back to him. I am 26 now, and when I think about the 14 years I spent playing softball, I realize those were the best years of my young life.

From an early age I was able to grasp the concept of softball and the rules quicker than most of the kids who were the same age. I was 5 when my parents signed me up in my first tee-ball league. My memory is not the greatest, but ask me anything that happened during my playing years and I can remember everything, including a play I made in tee-ball. I was at the pitcher’s mound playing defense, there was a runner on first base, and the next batter came up to the plate and popped it up to me. I caught the ball and threw it to first base because the runner there ran to second, not realizing the rules yet. Normally this would be a double-play, but those don’t exist in tee-ball.

Softball was anything but casual for me. Every hour that wasn’t spent at school, I was at a softball field. I loved practicing, I loved coming home with dirt all over me, and I loved how softball made me feel. When I was a younger player if I played badly I would cry. I think about it now and ask myself “Why did you cry so much?” but I was just passionate about the sport. Safe to say, my parents were ecstatic when I grew out of that phase.

My parents sacrificed a lot for me. From being coaches, taking me to tournaments, and all the times I needed new equipment, they never said no. Equipment was never cheap either. When I was playing, a high-quality bat was anywhere from $100 to $175 dollars. Now, Dick’s Sporting Goods website has a fastpitch softball bat for $310 dollars.

Some of my fondest memories are with my mom, when we would wake up at 4 a.m. to travel to tournaments from our house in Carlsbad, California to Los Angeles because we had a game at 8 a.m. It was a struggle to wake up on those days, but we always stopped at Starbucks so she could get her coffee and my white chocolate mocha. We would blast a song called Crazy Frog that would immediately have us laughing, and we would talk about everything. I asked my mom what her favorite memories were as she was with me much of my playing career. Her response was, “I didn’t like coaching; it was stressful and dealing with parents was not fun,” she said laughing. “I loved the downtime, watching you girls outside of the game bonding, and traveling in our RV was always so fun!”

I played softball for 14 years until I graduated high school. Throughout those years I met lifelong friends and traveled all over the U.S. The tournament in Fort Collins, Colorado, was my favorite and I was lucky enough to go twice. After opening ceremonies we would go around exchanging pins with other teams, and I remember everyone wanting the Las Vegas pin because theirs was a showgirl that lit up with a bunch of colors. I still have that pin and all the others I collected over the years.

When high school was ending I was at a crossroads. Trying to decide if I wanted to continue playing in college or stop was the hardest decision of my life at the time. I remember telling myself, “if you can’t commit 100 percent to this game that has treated you so well, you shouldn’t play.” So I stopped. My passion didn’t fade for the sport; I just grew tired. The travel and non-stop playing took a toll on me as it got more competitive.

I miss softball every day, but I have found other ways to continue to play such as coed slow-pitch leagues. In the city of Carlsbad, California, where I am from, there currently are 49 coed softball teams, according to the cities official website. Softball changed my life. I learned discipline, gained friendships, went through triumphs and defeats, but I will always be most thankful for the lasting memories the sport gave me.

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