I'm Head Coach on a 12U girls LL softball team. My Asst. Coach suggested to me that I should think about putting his daughter in as catcher in our game against a very tough opponent earlier yesterday. She's been struggling somewhat at the position and I'm wondering if I should take his suggestion. She's been feeling the heat of competition, I think, since she knows I have another girl that now wants that position. So I figured I would give her the chance to show me that she can rise to the occasion. And I value coach Frank's input greatly so I put her in.
Well, the girl lets about 6 runners score due to passed balls throughout the game and I had thoughts of taking her out. It was one of those games where the other team got all the breaks. Every time we put the bat on the ball it got hit right to someone's glove. Every time the other team put their bat on the ball they found holes. But something was telling me to keep her in that position for the last inning. Was it a hunch? Intuition? Was it Frank's little voice inside my head that wouldn't leave? I don't know.
I'm glad I left her in.
In the last inning something amazing happened. My team had just scored 12 runs with two outs in the previous inning tying the score 13-13. My daughter hits a homer, another girl homers, and girls that usually struggle in the batter's box were tearing the cover off the ball! They didn't need to be reminded to run to first on the drop third. They just did it. The girls were on a mission. It was personal. We were stealing bases left and right. If we got a girl on 1st, she wound up scoring. The other team, mired in frustration, even stopped covering their bases on our steal attempts and they were breaking down. We were in the process of running over the opposition. The team that is very used to winning, judging by their W-L record, now had that look on their faces that can only say, "we're in trouble."
So now the other team is at bat, last licks due to the game time rule. 1st batter makes it to 2nd on a hit to the gap, then steals third, no outs. I call "time" and bring the infield in for a conference. I nod towards the runner at 3rd and tell my girls that she represents the winning run and we need to play the infield in and any hit ball gets thrown home for the tag. No other base matters. If she scores...game over.
Next girl up grounds to pitcher who then throws to home for the tag. Catcher lays it on. YES! One out! Nice play! Runner on first attempts steal on first pitch and our catcher THROWS HER OUT AT 2B! Insane! Next batter walks. Next pitch, another steal attempt...and...catcher throws her out at 2nd AGAIN!! My girls are going NUTS! The parents are going NUTS! 3 outs...game over! Tie game, 13-13.
So what's the amazing part? Last night I watched in awe as a girl BECAME a catcher right in front of me and her team. Umpire even gave her the game ball. She was playing like she was possessed! Shoot, the whole TEAM was possessed in the last two innings! This is, without a doubt, one of the best games I've ever been honored to be a part of. I don't know if it gets any better than this. And as I type now my head is still in the clouds. So many of our players rose up last night and refused to lose the game, even after a 12 run deficit going into the last inning. There's nothing more satisfying for me than watching as a team gets that "a-ha!" moment and goes from a bottom third team to a top third team. The clinics and countless hours of practice and drilling are starting to bear fruit. I'm trying to find the words to express my gratitude, but I can't.
So, was listening to my Assistant Coach the right decision? Last night, it was. Thanks, Frank!