March 8, 2001

Touch 'Em All

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Last week, the softball opened the season with a 3-3 record in Virginia Beach.

In our first appearance on the dirt, we played pretty well. There were some great performances, and there were a few less-than-perfect moments.

Now, I’m not a negative person and I look back on our weekend with mostly positive reflection, but I am going to focus on one of those bad moments for a good part of this column.

Some of you may know that I hit a homerun this weekend (believe me, this is not my opportunity for boasting, so stick with me here). This may not sound like a bad moment, but you will figure it out.

First let me present the situation: extra innings, tied ball game, runner on second base, one out. I walked up to the plate, swung at the first pitch, and sent it out of the park.

Sounds great, right? A two-run homer — you can’t ask for much more than that.

Well, I found a way to transform this great hit into a bad moment. You must by wondering, ‘How can you foul up a homerun?’ You wouldn’t be alone — I have already been asked several times.

Hitting the ball is the hard part, right? Yes, that is correct. After that, all you have to do is trot around the bases (somewhat) mindlessly.

Apparently, this is where I got confused. Not only do you have to hit the ball over the fence, but you also must touch all four bags, including home plate, which I apparently missed by “at least five inches,” according to my new least-favorite umpire. My stupidity was not just a personal problem. It meant that my team would only have a one-run lead heading into the bottom of the inning.

Luckily, freshman outfielder Erin Sweeney made the most amazing play in right field to end the game before our opponents could score. She had to make a tough catch in shallow right field and bounce back to her feet for a throw to the plate to nail a runner attempting to tag up and tie the game.

After shedding a few tears, I decided that this is the sort of thing that can be prevented. All it takes is a little more discipline in practice situations and more attention paid to the details when the game isn’t on the line. It is important to focus during these seemingly mundane times in order to prepare for the more crucial moments.

Maybe I wouldn’t have missed home plate if I had been more meticulous about touching the bases during our indoor scrimmages or more serious about staying behind the line before sprints.

Coach Blood tells a story about his early days as a women’s softball coach. He took a position coaching a high school team and he decided to enforce certain rules for his players. Coach decided that these girls should wear pants and hats for every practice, but not everyone agreed.

One senior starter refused to wear a hat to practice, and Coach wasn’t going to make any exceptions, so he cut her. Next time Coach heard from this girl, as the story goes, she had dropped out of school and married a 50-year-old. So, as Coach Blood says, “Just wear your hat.”

The details are important and they contribute a lot to the finished product. Hitting the homerun isn’t enough. You have to complete it by paying attention to every base. It seems simple, but sometimes it is hard to be precise during post-dinger euphoria.

This would have been my sixth homerun in four years of Division I softball. You would think that I would take the base running a little more seriously, considering what is at stake. But, for whatever reason, I got lazy.

But this experience is not without its advantages. First, I know that no one on our team will ever make the same mistake again. Second, I get credited with a triple, something that I never would have gotten legitimately with short fences and these old legs.

Archived article by Kelli Larsen