Sunday, April 12, 2015

Julianna's first two softball games

After having about 4 practices, we were told last Monday by her coach that her first game would be two days later. When I told Julianna about it, she was surprised, and I asked, "How do you feel?" She said, "Nervous." There wasn't enough time to hold another practice before the first game so we got there this past Wednesday, and it all hit me, really hard. This is happening. She is going to play in a softball game. What am I doing? Why am I doing this again?

The day before the game I texted the coach to find out if she would still receive help from the assistant coach like she had been getting during practices. We hadn't even discussed what would happen during the games! So he talked to the higher ups and they agreed to let the assistant coach shadow her. I felt better. Julianna felt better, too.

As the team warmed up before the game, I began to feel those tears welling up, but I kept pushing them back. I am not going to cry. Everything is okay! Joel was coming straight there from work so I had Blake and Nathan with me. I watched as the other girls threw the ball to each other, throwing so fast and far, and watched Julianna throw just 10 feet away to her coach. Of course this made me doubt again why I was doing this at all. She's doing her best, I kept telling myself. I wished I could find a way to build her confidence, to help her feel like she could do anything the other girls could. For some reason she doesn't think she can, and this causes the coaches to want to help her even more. But I know for a fact that she is capable of doing it, and I just hope that by the middle to end of this season, she will be able to do everything on her own.

Right before the game started, all the coaches and umpires gathered up to discuss the game. I could overhear the assistant coach telling the umpire that they had a special needs child on their team and she would need extra help. The umpire and other coach agreed to this without hesitation. I could feel the tears welling up again as I listened. I'm not going to cry!

Her team was up to bat first, but the first three batters struck out, so they went quickly to outfield where Julianna played centerfield and was shadowed by her coach. Around this time, I was greeted by the head of the softball division of our local rec center, the same man I had to reason with almost 2 months ago at registration. He asked me how everything was going so far. I told him I loved the coach and so far she was doing okay. He was happy to hear it. Soon after that, Joel got there, and I told him I kept feeling like I wanted to cry. Of course, right after I said that, I lost it completely, and had to walk away for a minute to gain my composure. I couldn't really pinpoint why I had to cry, but the tears kept coming. I have never done anything like this for Julianna. I have always been afraid to, and here I was, facing my biggest fear for her: participating in a real team sport. It took me about 5 minutes before I could come back to the field and watch again. A ball was hit to her in centerfield, and she ran to get it, and threw it to 2nd base! She did it, with her assistant coach's help. But she made a play.  I was starting to feel a little better.

The next inning, Julianna was able to go up to bat. Her assistant coach made sure she stood in the right place and held the bat right. Her coach impulsively decided that he wanted to pitch to Julianna, and the other team was okay with this. He even said, I'm going to give her 5 pitches. Again, no complaints from anyone. She didn't hit the ball her first time.
The rest of the innings nothing really happened. At the end of the game, the coach picks two players of the game to hand out. Julianna was one of them. She was so excited, and also could not wait to get her team snack for the first time! She has been jealous of Blake getting these for years! We were proud of her, and I was happy they gave her the award the first game, so she wouldn't keep asking when she would get it! Also, at the game, there was a girl around Julianna's age playing with some other kids and she had Down syndrome. I wasn't sure who her parents were, but I knew I needed to meet them!

Saturday morning she had another game, and during warmups they practiced batting. She was able to hit the ball a couple of times! I told myself this time it would be easier, and I wouldn't have to cry. Once again, I heard our coaches tell the others about Julianna's special needs. And again, no disagreements. I am glad that so far, everyone is so open about it.

Julianna's team was up to bat first, and this time she got to hit during the first inning. It seemed like everyone at the game was sitting in silence, waiting to see if she would hit the ball. On the 5th pitch from her coach, she hit the ball, and her assistant coach grabbed her hand and ran to first, and then to second. The tears came immediately. That was my girl, in a real softball game, and she just hit the ball all by herself. In another inning, she hit the ball on the 2nd pitch, but it ended up being a foul ball, and she didn't hit any more after that, so she went back to the dugout.

During this game, I got to meet the mom of the girl with Down syndrome, and we had a nice talk. She told me she also cried when Julianna hit the ball, and noticed how quiet it got when she was up to bat. I feel blessed to know another mom who can somewhat relate to my situation, and look forward to getting to know her and her daughter better.

I am so proud of Julianna for doing something so brave. I know she is still nervous, but she is doing it. And as for me, I don't know how long it will take for me to get past the tears. Maybe I never will. Doing this is also brave for me, because I have never put her so far out there, in front of people. I had no idea what an emotional experience this would be for me. And I don't know what the future games will bring. Her assistant coach said not every team will be as agreeable, so there might be times where Julianna will have to do everything on her own. But this is what I want her to do anyway. I know she will get there. It's going to be a learning experience for everyone involved. I just feel grateful that people are compassionate enough to want to help her succeed, because she deserves it!

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