Wednesday, February 19, 2014 – Mary Nutter Classic / Palm Springs, CA
“California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.” This classic tune by The Mamas and The Papas seemed appropriate this morning when I put my headphones on and boarded our six hour flight from Newark to LAX. Now, as I look out my window of this 737 airplane, I am taken by the beauty of the mountains and valleys I am seeing from the sky. The mosaic of brown and orange shades below is breathtaking, and makes me stop what I am doing to truly appreciate the view.
Last weekend in Charleston, there were both bright spots and rough patches for our team. We showed that we can be scrappy and find ways to win, even if it is not always pretty, as each of the three games we won was decided by one run. We also learned that games can get away from us quickly if we do not turn the page on mistakes and collectively “stay-up” and focused on the next pitch and next play in front of us. Learning from our early losses will be crucial to our long-term successes, as a whole and individually.
Personally for me, this past weekend in Charleston was not a successful one. I struggled, mightily, both on the field and at the plate. While reflecting on this past weekend, I have realized that I was playing so far outside of myself that I can’t recall most of my at-bats because I don’t actually remember seeing the ball. After a couple of bad at-bats in a row at the start of play on Saturday, I fell into the notorious trap of trying to play catch up and make up for my earlier shortcomings at the plate. I carried these feelings with me on defense. In the process, I lost my focus, as I let my emotions take over, and became incredibly frustrated. With this frustration came voices of doubt and anxiety. Before long, I had spiraled into the “s-word” (rhymes with clump), which my father has never let me say for as long as I have been playing this game. I felt like I was trying to climb a mountain, but each time I attempted to take a step up, I was blinded by the sun and fell off into the valley.
After our 8-0 loss to DePaul on Saturday morning, I lost control of my emotions altogether. In just a matter of three games, I went from feeling confident, prepared, and focused to suddenly doubting myself and being so consumed by frustration that it came out in the form of tears when I was waiting for our bus to arrive after the game. It was then that a great thing happened. Paige Ortiz, our first baseman and one of my very good friends, sat next to me, put her arm around me, and we shared an orange together. She told me that she believed in me and made me laugh through my tears. Although Paige’s pep talk did not translate into statistical success on the diamond when we played later that night and the next day, it gave me the perspective that I needed to brush myself off and get back to climbing. After my talk with Paige, as well as a nice chat I had with Coach McGowan, I changed my attitude and had a more positive approach on the field. Although the hits were still not falling, I began putting together better at-bats and making the plays that my team needed me to make at third base.
Paige went through a similarly rough weekend offensively, and has also been focusing this week on the mental side of hitting and her approach at the plate. Since returning on Sunday night, we have been helping each other make sense of our Charleston struggles and sharing motivational messages back and forth in the process. Through these recent struggles, it has been great having someone like Paige to lean on for support and talk about hitting with. Although struggles are never fun to endure, I know that this valley we are traveling through in our journey is a blessing in disguise for both Paige and me. It has not only made us closer friends and better teammates, but it will also make us more battle-tested ball players. I know that when we both eventually come out of this valley and make it to the mountaintop, she and I will look to each other first for the celebration. I’m really thankful for Paige.
As we enter our third weekend of action, I feel like we are in the midst of an important point in our season. Our coaches have stressed to us that our extremely tough out of conference schedule is meant to get us better and prepare us for conference play. These next five games will not only allow us to evaluate how we stack up against some of the best teams in the country, but it will also give us the opportunity to prove to ourselves and the rest of the conference that we are a force to be reckoned with. After a 5-3 start against some very good opponents in Orlando and Charleston, we are poised and prepared for success on the west coast. Although we are not favored to win any of the games we will play this weekend, I believe we will embrace the underdog role and surprise a lot of doubters with our play.
I am excited for the experiences that playing in Palm Springs will provide me and my teammates with this weekend. Through the events of the past week, I have learned that one must first experience the view from the valley before the view from the mountaintop is possible. Just as I am doing on the airplane right now, I plan on appreciating the view and seeing the beauty of the mountains and valleys of this journey.
With this in mind, I’m ready to soak up the sun, emerge from the valley, and work my way back up the mountain.