The Roller Coaster Ride of a Lifetime

Monday, May 19, 2014 – NCAA Tournament / Tallahassee, FL

Our last team picture as the 2014 Fordham Rams.

The 2014 Fordham Rams, for the last time.

The song seemed appropriate. OneRepublic’s “Good Life” filled the speakers at Florida State’s JoAnne Graf Field as we convened for one last team picture. We had just ended our season with a heartbreaking 5-4 loss to South Carolina in the NCAA Regionals. The loss was a bitter pill to swallow, but OneRepublic’s lyrics eased the immediate pain and provided an amazingly fitting ending to our final moments in uniform together:

Hopelessly, I feel like there might be something that I’ll miss.

Hopelessly, I feel like the window closes oh so quick.

Hopelessly, I’m taking a mental picture of you now.

‘Cause hopelessly, the hope is we have so much to feel good about.”

That last line was particularly pertinent for the moment. After capturing our second straight Atlantic 10 Championship and finishing with a 36-20 record, as well as all of the other individual and collective accomplishments we garnered throughout the season, we do, in fact, have so much to feel good about.

Michele Smith and me chatting after our first game at Regionals against Florida State.

ESPN commentator and Olympic gold medalist Michele Smith chatting with me after our first game at Regionals against Florida State.

For fifteen weeks, I have documented many of the highs and lows of the 2014 Fordham Softball season. During this fifteen-week process, I have learned more about myself, my teammates, and the nature of this amazing sport than in any other season in my fifteen-year softball career. In these fifteen short weeks, our myriad successes and failures comprised the story that will be forever etched in both the history of our program and the history of our lives.

As a particularly sentimental person, now is the time when my nostalgia is at an all-time high. Just as I will miss our four seniors (Tina, Bri, Gabby, and Elise) and the tremendous journey we experienced together, I will also miss writing this blog. While capturing the so-called “chapters in-between” (the moments that shape the journey, but often go unnoticed and unappreciated), this blog has provided me with an outlet to experience clarity and understanding during some of the toughest times this season, as well as a way to truly appreciate the moments of greatness and joy.

After getting eliminated on Saturday night by South Carolina, I talked with Sydney, my roommate during Regionals, in our hotel room before falling asleep. We reminisced and recapped various moments from our season and compared it to a roller coaster ride; not in the traditional sense, however, in which roller coasters are often used as metaphors with negative connotations.

My Dad and me at Regionals. He made the trip down to Tallahassee to support his Rams.

My Dad and me at Regionals. He made the trip down to Tallahassee to support his Rams.

We determined that our 2014 softball season was the roller coaster ride of a lifetime. Sure, there were moments of anxiety and doubt while we were ascending up the tracks, along with moments of fear after the initial drop-off, during which we felt like we might fall out or become sick. But, after we got some momentum and stopped white-knuckling the safety bar in front of us, the rest of the ride was thrilling, and even joyous. Ultimately, this roller coaster ride left the people who had experienced it wanting to hop back on line and ride it again.

For thrill-seekers, like me, there is nothing more enjoyable than a good roller coaster ride.

As I say goodbye to yet another season in my softball career and begin preparing for my final go-around next year, I find solace in the words of Ernest Hemingway:

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

And what a journey it was. Thanks to everyone who came along for the ride!

Glorious Triumphs and Worthwhile Experiences

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 – Atlantic 10 Tournament / Bronx, NY (A10 TOURNAMENT CHAMPS)

Rams posing with the trophy after the big win.

Rams posing with the trophy after the big win. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

I took the time to look around and take it all in. In the 5th inning, with the score 11-0 and a trip to the NCAA Tournament just three outs away, I gave myself the chance to truly enjoy what was happening at that very moment.

It wasn’t exactly what I had imagined it would be, but then again, most things usually aren’t. When a championship game is decided by the mercy-rule, the immediate thrill of victory isn’t nearly as electrifying. After letting it sink in for a few days, however, I’m glad there was never any doubt that we were going to win that final game against St. Louis because it allowed me to step outside of myself for the last three outs, and live in that moment I had been dreaming about all year.

So much of my writing over the course of this season has been about seizing the moment, enjoying the journey, and even appreciating the seemingly difficult things along the way. In a matter of three outs, probably equaling about five to seven minutes, I was able to do each of those things.

Talk about things coming full circle.

Perfect symmetry, as Lauren and Amy celebrate (left), while Elise and I do the same (right).

Perfect symmetry: Lauren and Amy celebrate (left), while Elise and I do the same (right). (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

I thought about the grueling 6am conditioning workouts in our outfield in September, as well as the time spent practicing and earning the right to be standing on the field at that very moment.

I flashed back to some of the hardest times during the season, too; I looked at Elise next to me at shortstop and remembered how, two months ago after a painful loss to Central Michigan in Florida, she had said that it wasn’t too late to turn our season around, and that we could go on a run and eventually be laughing about all the struggles we had endured.

I looked around and took in the beautiful surroundings of Bahoshy Field, which had not been that packed since Alabama came to play us in 2012. With the banners hanging high along the fence and the home crowd buzzing for the championship they knew to be inevitable, I felt a sense of pride.

When the final out was ultimately recorded (a line drive right back to Michele at the mound), I ran and jumped into Elise’s arms for the second consecutive year; a childlike celebration reflecting the pure and unadulterated joy of the moment.

Rams mob Sydney after leading off the championship game with a home run.

Rams mob Sydney after leading off the championship game with a home run. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

After the game, a few of my friends were commenting about how I had a huge smile plastered across my face during the entirety of the last inning. I couldn’t help but smile, both outwardly and inwardly. We had done it. We had accomplished our biggest goal of repeating as Atlantic 10 Champions, and had done so on our home field. We had overcome struggles from the beginning of the journey that had caused us to question our team’s identity and make a conscious choice to alter the trajectory of our season. We had risen to the occasion and played our best softball when it mattered most, as we swept through the three games we played in the Atlantic 10 tournament without leaving a doubt in anyone’s mind that we were the best team in the conference.

Although the championship game may have reflected an easy path to victory, with the score being lopsided and the mercy-rule coming into effect, the irony of the situation is that the road to the championship was anything but easy for us. As a team, we had to endure some of the lowest of lows throughout the season; from being humbled for the first time in Charleston, to going 0-5 in California, to the disaster that was the Bradley game, to team and personal conflicts throughout the journey, and most recently, to the embarrassment of being swept by Dayton, our journey to the top of the mountain had several pitfalls along the way.

Me and the trophy, a moment I had been waiting for all season.

A moment I had been waiting for all season. (Courtesy of Tom Wasiczko)

But, as Thomas Paine said, “The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

To me, the value of our 2014 Atlantic 10 Conference Championship is greater than any trophy or banner could ever symbolize; it rests in the memories I will always cherish and the people I experienced the journey with.

As we continue our season at Florida State University in the NCAA Regionals this upcoming weekend, I plan to continue seizing the moment, enjoying the journey, and even appreciating the seemingly difficult things along the way. After all, that’s what makes the triumphs glorious and the experiences worthwhile.