Youth sports keep adults close to the innocence of their youth, even if they do not realize it when their children are playing games.
In 17 years of covering sports, some moments last longer than others. There have been state championships and near-miss heartbreaks. There have been individual successes and stumbles. There have been high school triumphs and tragedies.
One moment that lingers resulted in an award-winning photo. It was a 12-year-old state tournament softball game and the team I was tasked to cover was down and running out of outs. A young girl, one of the younger members of the team, was to come to the plate and her teammates needed a hit from her to keep their collective dream alive.
I saw her in the dugout; nervous, fighting back tears, trying to stay strong, but outwardly failing. I knew her at-bat was going to be big. The head coach also saw that she was struggling with the pressure. The weight of expectation was strapped to her back like a weighted ruck sack.
He called time before she got to the batter’s box, walked to her, not in a hurry, and leaned in close. He placed a hand on each side of her batting helmet, and spoke to her. I took the photo and prayed it turned out well. (It did. In the photograph, the tears on her face could be seen and her reflection curved gently in the mirrored sunglasses he wore.)
I could not hear what the coach said to the emotional young girl, but imagined he told her, “Calm down. You can do this.”
She did. Her hit lit the fuse for the team and they rallied to win that game and eventually won for their league its first state title in 12-and-under softball.
Two things stuck with me from that day. The first was how critical that man’s response was to the situation. His calmness helped that young girl deal with her emotions. Professionally, I learned how important it was to be in the right place at the right time. Being there made all the difference for me and for the parents, players and community who were invested in those young girls.
It’s pretty obvious why that day was so memorable.
This past week, while sports editor Scott Wilson was on vacation, I had the opportunity to cover a few games of Little League baseball. The Glasgow Athletics Program’s teams were playing in a district tournament. The 10 and under all stars won their tournament and will play in the Kentucky Little League State Tournament beginning July 20 in Prestonsburg. They are the first Glasgow team to play in a Little League Inc. state tournament. The 12 and under all stars nearly rallied to win their district as well, but Campbellsville broke their hearts in an extra inning of play Thursday. It is the 12-year-old Little League World Series that is broadcast on television every August. Hopefully, a GAP team can make that run someday.
Meanwhile, locally, there is a 9-year-old Cal Ripken Softball State Tournament being played at Jackie Browning Park. It began with pool play and will continue through today (Saturday), at least. There are also teams playing in Cal Ripken and Babe Ruth state baseball tournaments. The plan is to get as much of that information into the newspaper as possible. (For us to do so, requires a great deal of cooperation from coaches and parents. Scientists have been asked to clone Scott Wilson, but they have not perfected the process as yet.)
Good luck to those teams still playing and cherish the memories.
James Brown is editor of the Glasgow Daily Times. He can be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
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