I have been a softball dad for a long time, ever since Emma picked up a bat. Emma’s first game was on April 3, 2007, just 11 short years ago! I didn’t want to be a good softball dad. I wanted to be great. I love the strategy and tactics in softball and wanted to teach Emma to love the game. It’s not just a game of action. It’s a thinking person’s game. I love the crack of the bat and the pounding of cleats down the baseline. I love the smile on Emma’s face when she catches the impossible hit. Most importantly, I love to cheer my daughter on when she shows just how unstoppable she is.
Emma started playing softball in the spring of 2007. Coach Eric picked Emma for his team because he thought she was scrappy. That she was.
I started out my life as a softball dad like this:
I love how your positive attitude never falters! Please let me know if there is anything that I can do to help you or the team.
I'd love to work with Emma outside of practices. Besides playing catch and pitching to her, is there anything that you'd recommend to help her with?
Thanks Garth, I try hard to make a positive lasting memory for every girl. As for Emma, she is everything I thought she would be when I first saw her at tryouts. Let's casually find out what 3 positions she thinks she is best at. More importantly, which position is her favorite. Then we can work from there. I think she will be good at pretty much any position.
One thing for all the girls to work on is gripping the ball, keeping the throw low and straight so it bounces low and turns into a fast roll. This is easier to handle and it gets there faster than a high, high bouncing throw.
Thanks for your assistance tonight, you are welcome to be right there in the thick of things whenever you can.
I’ve tried to be in the thick of it ever since, although I have, from time to time, missed a game. I bought myself a glove and we played a lot of catch. I even picked up the Assistant Coach hat for a few seasons. I have held my favorite positions for the past few years: dad in the stands. Really, that’s the best position. I can sit back and enjoy the game. Well, I can enjoy watching my daughter play. Of course, I do show some frustration when my favorite team is struggling to get on base or stop a runner from advancing. But in the end, I love to watch her play. That’s what it’s all about.
It took me a while to learn to really just enjoy the game. Both Emma and I are highly competitive, and sometimes that gets in the way of having fun. I attribute Rachel Macy Stafford to my attitude adjustment. If you haven’t read her article, “Six Words You Should Say Today” and you are a parent, please go read it!
Those words are “I love to watch you play.” I am incredibly grateful for having read her view on being present for the player and enjoying the game.
And I can’t watch her play if I am not there. I can’t remember the last time I missed a game. It’s been a while, but I know that after having cancer my attendance went to 100%. We watched quite a few games this year in 25° F temperatures. The cold was numbing to me, and completely sapped my energy, but I never once thought about staying home. (If you’re wondering, 4 layers of clothing, hat, gloves and an LL Bean Sleeping bag will get you through a game.)
I don’t miss games. My job is to be the softball dad. I need to enjoy each game because it could be my last time watching Emma play. Sure, there are a lot of reasons why that could happen: injury, lack of funding, Emma might suddenly give it up for a career in Curling, and yes, sometimes I think about how cancer could cut my job as softball dad short.
I can’t adequately express how much joy I experience watching Emma succeed on the diamond. I don’t know if other dads feel this strongly about watching their kid do something they truly enjoy. I hope they understand how quickly the time on the court/field/stage/pool passes. I remember one time when Emma was playing Shortstop, her position of choice, and a strong grounder was hit to her. She effortlessly scooped up the ball and backhanded it to the third-base player without even looking to see if she was in place. I have no idea where she learned that! It was an amazing play, and I was genuinely surprised at the skill level she attained.
We’re at the end of the season, the end of an era. There will be no more softball. We have three games scheduled this week and a pretty ugly weather forecast, too.
Emma’s last softball game is this week, and I will treat each one like it could be the last. One of them will be.
I’m now out of a job.
My dear Emma, thank you for your time on the field. I have had the best time of my life watching you play.
PS - yes, I have shed a tear for practically every word in this post.