Rainy Days, High Spirits

Sunday, March 30, 2014 – Rained Out

For the first time since the beginning of February, we Rams are spending a weekend at home in the Bronx without playing a single softball game. Our A10 championship game rematch against St. Joseph’s will have to wait, as the rain has wiped out our most anticipated conference series of the season.

This little hiatus from playing has given me a chance to reflect on the week that was, as well as the progress we have made over the last couple of weeks. We are currently riding a five-game winning streak, during which we have recorded run-rule victories in each of our last three games. Sweeping George Washington at their place last weekend was huge for us and our confidence. We entered that series with a swagger and a fire that translated into a great collective performance on the field, and left no doubt in the minds of anyone watching that we are a championship-caliber team. Those George Washington games were fun to play in, as there was a tangible playoff atmosphere present in D.C. last Saturday.

Rams celebrating Sydney's monster bomb into the tennis courts at Bahoshy Field against Marist.

Rams celebrating Sydney’s monster bomb into the tennis courts at Bahoshy Field against Marist. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

The momentum we gained from the GW series carried over into our first home games of the season on Thursday against Marist. Despite a full day of classes before the double-header, as well as frigid temperatures, we recorded two more statement wins. With our new championship banners hanging high on the left field fence for the first time, we mercied Marist in both games and got out of there in ten innings. We had our first real offensive explosion of the season, as we outscored the reigning MAAC Champions 20-3 in two games.

At one point during the second Marist game while we were on defense, I took a look around the field and thought about how incredible it would be to win the A10 title on our home field in about five weeks. Not only do we have an opportunity this year to win the first back-to-back Atlantic 10 championships in program history, but we can do it at home! I know I’m getting a little ahead of myself, as we just started conference play, but a girl can dream, right?

My spirits are high right now. We are over .500 for the first time since the second week of the season, 2-0 in conference, and playing all-around good softball. The bats are really coming around, and our experience against top flight pitching is showing and starting to pay dividends against the teams we have been facing recently.

Our assistant coach Bob and I talked briefly before the start of last week’s GW games about the three different seasons that occur over the course of the journey; The first being the preseason (every game leading up to conference play), the second is the regular season (conference games), and the third is the postseason (the A10 tournament and beyond). At the start of the second “season” of our journey, I can clearly see a difference in the growth and development of our team now and our team at the start of the preseason. If this upward trajectory persists, and we continue to grow and improve as a team like we have done over the past month, I can see us hoisting the trophy on Bahoshy Field in May. Until then, I’m going to continue riding this wave with my spirits high and my sights set on that ultimate prize.

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Perceiving People and “Such is Life” Moments in a Different Light

Friday, March 21, 2014 – George Washington University / Washington, D.C.

After a week in which we experienced rainouts, cancellations, 35 degree outdoor practices, an inordinate amount of downtime, a broken down bus, a nine-hour wait for a new bus to bring us from South Carolina to Virginia, and a 3am arrival in Virginia on gameday, I think all of us can agree that spring break did not go quite as planned. Our trip did not start out this way, however, as there seemed to be such promise and upward potential after our first 24-hours in South Carolina.

We went 2-0 on Saturday after convincing victories over Troy and Georgia State. We were riding high on adrenaline after our games, so we took to the beach and boardwalk to enjoy the beautiful Myrtle Beach weather for some spring break fun. Little did we know when we woke up on Sunday morning that the normalcy of the trip would end there. For the rest of the week, just when we thought our plans were secure and things were looking up, something seemed to go awry and derail them in some way.

Our unusual week made me think of the saying, “such is life,” in regards to the unpredictable events of our spring break. Samuel Johnson wrote in the 18th century, “Such is life, that whatever is proposed, it is much easier to find reasons for rejecting than embracing.” I’m not going to lie and say that I was able to embrace the derailments of spring break over the past week. As with everything this season, however, I’m trying to look at the benefits of the experience, and how it will help my teammates and me in the long run.

Michele, Tina, and me during team bonding at Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach.

Michele, Tina, and me during team bonding at Medieval Times in Myrtle Beach.

Because of our constantly changing plans, we were forced to spend significantly more time together in a non-softball setting than we ever normally would have. We had the opportunity to shop together, eat together (way more than usual), experience Medieval Times together, color each other’s hair, and just be normal girls together. In retrospect, it was actually pretty nice to be able to hang out with some of my closest friends, as well as some of the girls who I don’t usually spend time with off the field, and see these people in a different light.

On Monday night, I watched Dead Poet’s Society for the first time in my hotel room. Robin Williams’ ability to find beauty and inspiration in poetry, as well as his “carpe diem” approach to life, was nothing short of moving to me. This classic movie is filled with myriad memorable quotes, but one line applied particularly well to our spring break experiences: “We must constantly look at things in a different way. It is important to have perspective in life. Without it, we would all see things in one way.”

This quote not only applies to the “such is life” moments we endured in Myrtle Beach, but also to the preconceived notions we have about the people we don’t usually take the time to know off the field. I know I was better able to identify with some of my most unfamiliar teammates during this trip, as a result of us spending so much time together, and thus, being able to see them just as they are. It’s amazing how a group of people can travel thousands of miles together, eat together, live together, and play together, but not really understand each other until they are forced to see one another in a different light. Maybe the greater purpose for the derailments was to force us to gain this new perspective, no matter how difficult it was to understand in the moment.

I hope our spring break experiences will make us closer going forward. It could be a premature assumption, but I think this new-found understanding of one another is coming at the right time. The real season starts tomorrow, as we open up conference play at George Washington University. It will be a great opportunity for us to gauge how we stack up against one of the conference’s best teams, as well as a chance to make a statement to the rest of the teams in the A10. As of right now, everyone in the Atlantic 10 is undefeated, despite the ups and downs we have all experienced so far this season.

Tomorrow marks a clean slate; A chance to turn the page, and enter into a promising, new phase of the season. A chance to use the “such is life” moments we have endured over the last 28 games to our advantage to fuel the quest to defend our Atlantic 10 title.

Seizing the Moment On and Off the Diamond

Friday, March 14, 2014 – Coastal Carolina University / Myrtle Beach, SC

As we enter hour eleven of this seemingly endless bus ride, I’m feeling regretful about how I have spent my time on this Coach bus today.

I just realized that I haven’t truly gazed out the window once in eleven hours. Through six states and an entire day of driving, I haven’t taken a single stretch of at least five minutes to take in the passing signs or various landscapes along the way. I’ve been so caught up in my own thoughts and distracted by my electronics, as well as the movies that have drowned out the moments I haven’t had my headphones in, that I’ve missed out on the sights of this journey, as well as chances to have meaningful interactions with my teammates. I didn’t seize the opportunity to see something beautiful today, gain a new perspective, or step outside of myself long enough to appreciate the experience and do something worthwhile.

After two wins on Saturday, we took to the beach to celebrate and have a little spring break fun.

After two wins on Saturday, we took to the beach to celebrate and have a little spring break fun.

Now, some might say, what is there to appreciate about a 14-hour drive on a cramped, smelly bus with 20 cranky girls? Perhaps the sight of a beautiful body of water on top of a bridge, a field of open land, or teammates sharing jokes, opinions, and memories. Certainly more than what meets the eye.

This 14-hour bus ride is reminiscent of both the college softball season and life’s journey: Long, arduous at times, with each place we pass serving as a mere mark on the map getting us closer to our eventual destination. Even though I know we will get to the end of our ride eventually, the feeling of coasting is tricking my mind into thinking that it will go on forever like this.

But, it won’t. This bus ride, and our season, will end sooner than we think. I don’t want to experience the same feeling of regret at the end of this season, or my time at Fordham, that I am feeling right now on this bus ride. A feeling that I’ve let something pass me by without making the most of the experience, the people around me, and the opportunities to do, see, and endure potentially great things.

Elise, our senior shortstop and one of my best friends, sent me a video this week that Alabama Softball used as motivation during Super Regionals three years ago.

Striking a pose with my best friends and teammates in Myrtle Beach.

Striking a pose with my best friends and teammates in Myrtle Beach.

The entire video inspired me to want to make the most of my opportunity as a college softball player to do special things on and off the field, and salvage the rest of what has been a roller coaster ride of a season, so far. One quote particularly resonated with me: “The game is going to go on, and there is only one rule you’re going to need to know about: there are no second chances. There’s only this moment and the next moment.”

This moment and the next. This game and the next. This pitch and the next. This interaction and the next. The ability to seize each moment, and not only make my college softball journey, but also the journey of my life better for myself and the people I am experiencing it with, is something I desire more than anything. Because, just like the game of softball will go on long after I graduate and stop playing, life will also go on whether or not I remember to look out the window and value the people in my life during these precious Fordham years.

This bus ride metaphor has reminded me to look out the window more often to take in the fleeting sights along the way, to focus less on myself and more on the people who are with me throughout the journey (both on the bus and at home), and not to take any moment of this experience for granted, even the seemingly insignificant places and stops along the way.

I continue to learn more each week about life through softball, as well as from the great people and places that Fordham has allowed me to know and experience. Going forward, it is my goal to try my best to seize the moments for success and victory on the diamond, as well as the moments to enjoy the view from the window and the people I am blessed to have in my life both on and off the field.

Seeing the Light and Emerging From the Tunnel

Thursday, March 6, 2014 – USF Series / Tampa, FL

Today in class, my Global Marketing professor said something that resonated with me so much at the beginning of the lecture that I couldn’t stop thinking about it for much of the remainder of class. Professor DeFrancesco said, “When you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.” He definitely wasn’t talking about softball when he said this, but of course my first inclination was to relate his quote to our team and my personal journey so far this season.

My Grandma and me in Tampa. She came to see me play during her month-long winter getaway to Florida.

My Grandma and me in Tampa. She came to see me play during her month-long winter getaway to Florida.

I got to thinking about all of the different meanings that this quote has and the ways I can relate it to my life as a softball player. Although this quote is often said in a disparaging context to highlight a lack of preparation, poor business practices, or something of the sort, I think it can also be applied positively.

During class, I decided to substitute certain words into this quote to fit the mold of what I’ve been thinking about our team since last weekend at the Citrus Classic: “When you play the way you’ve always played, you’re going to get what you’ve always gotten.” This concept goes back to what I mentioned in my last post about the importance of remembering who we are and what we’ve done as individual players, as well as who we are and what we’ve done collectively as members of the Fordham Softball program.

Coming off of the toughest stretch of our season, it is crucial for us to remember how we have (for the most part) always played during our softball careers, both before and during our time at Fordham. If we can, once again, play the way we’ve always played (consistently, cohesively, competitively), then we will get what we’ve always gotten (wins, championships, rings).

After facing four ranked teams (including #1 Florida) and three other opponents receiving votes in the top 25, and going 7-12 to start our 2014 campaign, I think it’s safe to say we’ve been beaten, battered, and tested in the early-goings of our season. This weekend in Tampa, we will be playing our first all-mid-major schedule since the first tournament of the season, and I think we are all looking forward to a bit of a respite. We have made it through the toughest part of our schedule, and other than a single game against LSU in April, we won’t be facing any other ranked teams during the regular season. Now, I’m not saying the rest of our schedule will be easy because I don’t think that will be the case at all, but I am saying that it will be nice to be the favorite again.

Let’s face it, losing is the worst, and I know for sure that all of us are tired of it. When you face consecutive losses and multiple bad games, it can seem like there is no foreseeable light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m starting to see the light, however. My mindset has changed significantly over the past week. After having offensive success at the Citrus Classic last weekend against some of the top teams in the country, I am beginning to see how my early season hitting-woes are already paying dividends for me. Something clicked in my brain last weekend and it became apparent to me that it doesn’t matter who the pitcher on the mound is or what the name on the front of her jersey says, I have already faced the best of the best. In other words, there is nothing a pitcher could throw at me that I haven’t seen before. Whether this feeling of clarity and confidence came from the numerous talks I’ve had with my Dad and DJ, getting sick of under-performing, feeling comfortable in the batter’s box, or a combination of all these things, I’m not quite sure. What I do know, however, is that my offensive success at the Citrus Classic significantly boosted my confidence and reminded me of what I am capable of as a hitter, even after experiencing the toughest offensive stretch of my softball career. I know that facing top-flight pitching repeatedly for nearly twenty games has provided me with invaluable experience that leaves me feeling confident and prepared going up against any pitcher in the future.

After the Missouri game in Palm Springs (we were mercied 8-0 in five innings by the #16 team in the country), Bridget told us that if she could go back in time, she wouldn’t change anything about scheduling such difficult opponents for us. She said that she would rather us get beaten up when it didn’t matter, in order for us to gain the toughness we will need when it will matter during conference play and in the A10 tournament.

It was hard to agree with her at the time, but just two weeks later, after coming out of my own valley and seeing how these struggles have already made me a better, more confident hitter, I can see how the experience our team has gained against some of the best teams in the country is going to pay off for us very soon.

If we can collectively garner confidence from our multiple big-game experiences so far this season, and take out our pent-up frustrations on unsuspecting and less-experienced opponents, the USF Series has the potential to be our coming out weekend. We are on the verge of something great, I can feel it, and I still believe, whole-heartedly, that this team is special.

This weekend, I’m ready for us to play the way we always have as softball players, so that we can get what we’ve always gotten. The way that got us noticed during high school to be recruited by Division 1 programs; the way that has helped us defeat top-ranked opponents in the past; the way that got us our big, fat A10 championship rings from last season.

As we move toward the light and emerge from the tunnel, I’m optimistic that the future will be bright for this team. I know for sure that there isn’t a more battle-tested squad in the A10. With that in mind, it’s time for us to collectively renew our confidence, puff out our chests a little bit, and do to other teams what has already been done to us.

Our big, sometimes crazy, often dysfunctional Fordham Softball family at the Ortiz’s Texas BBQ during the Citrus Classic in Orlando.(Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

Our big, sometimes crazy, often dysfunctional Fordham Softball family at the Ortiz’s Texas BBQ during the Citrus Classic in Orlando. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)