Every inch of my skin had been scorched by the sun’s rays. The high temperatures were evaporating a lot of moisture from the air. I felt as if I were submerged in a hot spring’s mist, making it difficult to breathe. I glanced out into the bleachers, where the fans were expecting me – the game’s final inning pitcher – until I heard my mom cheering me on from the sidelines. As I dragged my feet from the dugout to the mound’s center, spinning the ball between my fingers, it felt like I was miles away. My heart was racing, my hands trembled, and I was perspiring profusely like a porous ‘pitcher’. As soon as I walked atop the mound, my muscles and bones sprang in a surge of vigor. I took advantage of my strong power by swerving around to face the catcher’s glove, which was perfectly positioned behind home plate. I inhaled deeply and braced myself.
About six months ago, when no one else on my team could, I began pitching. No pitcher, no game – I was desperately needed at first, but I’ve loved every minute of it since. ‘New pitcher, watch her!’ yelled someone from the opposing team right in my face during an earlier game. I was enraged, but I continued to pitch as if nothing had happened. The ball, on the other hand, did not always stay by my side. When I got home from that game, I scribbled ‘listen or lose’ on the ball and trained it in my backyard, rain or shine, day or night. I hoped that one day, ‘the ball’ would become ‘my ball’.
My summer tournament season would be over if we lost this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Tsunami, a higher-ranked team, defeated my team Hailstorm. It was a huge draw for us though to be the underdogs, or even to pull off a major upset against them. We fought like warriors, hitting, sliding, and stealing bases as we left cloud-forming dust trails in the air. At the end of the third inning, we were all tied. My courage grew as the game progressed into the final inning. After striking out the first two batters, I was on the verge of striking out the third. If I made it, my team would win by just one point! Unfortunately, the ball was then struck by a ‘heat stroke’. The third batter took a swing at my third strike ball but failed to connect. I dashed towards the ball as the catcher spun back to dive for it, hoping to keep it from hitting the ground. The ball, however, was moving too quickly for a save. I couldn’t do much but watch the ball fly through the air. The batter sped across the diamond like an arrow on a string, arriving safely ahead of the ball at first base. Hailstorms were heartbroken, and I wasn’t myself anymore. Tsunamis began wreaking havoc on all bases, including home. In the end, we came up just short. Without the ball in my glove, tears streamed down my cheeks as a wave of sadness swept through our team. The season seemed to be coming to an end, but I knew I’d given it my all, as had ‘the ball’. I was proud of what I had accomplished, and more importantly, I had thoroughly enjoyed the entire experience.
Tsunami’s coach surprised me a week later by inviting me to the season’s final tournament with his team. We played in the sweltering heat for hours again, until nearly midnight. But this time, after overcoming the difficult loser bracket, we came in second place! Soon after, I received my FIRST tournament ring, and ‘the ball’ was dubbed ‘my ball’. I was exhausted, but as I dozed off in the car with my pals held tightly in my palms, I whispered, ‘Although I’m very pleased with my ball for earning me my ring in the second tournament, I was also proud of myself in the first when the heat stroke stole my ball away.’
As I reflected on my newly discovered softball path, my ball entertained me while also teaching me how to overcome obstacles, be my best self, and never give up. Success doesn’t come easily, and it’s more of a byproduct of my life’s experiences than a goal. Regardless of the outcome, my friends and I are always on the road.
I am a 6th grader that lives in Houston, Texas.