Choosing to dazzle and not frazzle. A pep-talk like no other.

Instead of the softness that accompanies a day off I found myself waking up this morning disjointed and (for the first 10 minutes of the day) walking around in that milky zone between awake and sleep, you know what I mean (smashing into stuff, very “flopsy”, a gaze that would make even your own mother wonder if you had been up all night drinking). I opened my day planner to check my never-ending list of half inventions, little poems on sticky notes and creative doodle dreams that only I can translate. I noticed that there were big bold letters on this day that read SOFTBALL PLAYOFFS. GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER AND WIN THIS FOR CHIP. (Which I’m sure any of you lemons out there can relate to when you’re giving yourself a self-talk. Do it for yourself. Do it for Chip). My attitude completely shifted. That’s right (I thought) I have ball tonight!!!

Good ol’ball.

Always there for me, like a friend who won’t quit. She used to be a huge part of my life you see, ball was many things.. tournaments filled with adrenaline, edge, competition, passion, drive, week nights and most weekends, as a matter of fact at one point ‘ball’ was my only outlet in life. When I stood at shortstop nothing was getting by me. I was best in the world, the back bone and the apple of father’s (and mum’s) eye.

Now as I have gotten older softball has changed her tune…I would no longer describe her as a test of refined skill, focus and unbridled competition. Now her role is that of a drunken aunt that smokes carton of cigarettes an hour. She no longer forces me to show up an hour early to stretch and take ground balls, now she’s often late because she’s dragging a keg across the field and stealing fun-points for me because I’m shaking my head while explaining what ‘tagging up’ is for the fourth time. She has taken a slightly less serious approach to my life, (Danica please take that as a joke. I take every game very seriously) it’s become a time where I can let my guard down, be social and have fun with people who I work with and who I love.

I didn’t think it was possible to feel that fire again. In fact I liked playing something for fun for once. Then I got a laser beam e-mail (what I call e-mails that convey feeling) from our first baseman Jay ‘Puppet Show’ Steele and it reignited every competitive cell in my body. I will stop writing here, I feel that the rest of this post will encompass what I am now feeling. Thank you Jay. Thank you for reminding me what beer league softball is all about….. (I have not changed anything in this letter as it is important you feel the true essence of blood, sweat and tears that make up our team…)

Ya team, pick up your game, This is where it counts.

Tonight we embark upon the last portion of a journey that started 12 months ago when we walked off the field at the end of last years tournament.

Part of the journey involved some of our friends leaving us for various reasons to go their separate ways. But those of you who remain are a part of something special here. You stayed for a reason.

You stayed on because you care about the team, what it stands for, your teammates, and yourselves! All of you recognize that you are a part of something special here tonight. You recognize that you’ve come a long way from last August. I encourage you to savor it. Absorb this moment and seize it! Embrace it and take it the direction that YOU want to go.

There comes a point in each persons life when he/she asks himself: HOW DO I WANT TO BE REMEMBERED? Reality is so few people have the chance that you have tonight. You have the chance to effect the answer to that question. The moment is at hand. It is not about tomorrow. It is not about yesterday. It is not about what you did ten minutes ago. But part of your future and how you’ll be remembered will be shaped BY YOU over the next one and half hours! Look at your team, look at the person next to you. How do you want them to remember you? How do you want them to remember the way you played in this game? How do you want your parents, family, and friends to remember your performance on this night? Will you be remembered as ordinary or extraordinary?

Thirty years from now when you have your team reunion you’ll see many of these faces again and you’ll shake hands. You’ll reminisce and you’ll soak up the common bond that you have with your teammates that can never be broken.

The coaches have prepared you for this game. The trainers have prepared you for this game. You’ve prepared yourselves for this game. But there are several things to remember when you take the field:

1. Play with heart. No matter what happens, we don’t let up!

2. Play with passion. For many of you this is your last game as a Statuatory Grape. But even for the underclassmen, do not take this situation for granted. Although you earned the right to be here, don’t assume you’ll be back. Play it as if it were your last hurrah. PLAY EVERY SINGLE BALL LIKE ITS THE PLAY THAT WILL SAVE THE GAME! EACH PLAY MUST BE A WINNING PLAY. As the game goes on each play adds up to a winning performance.

3. Play within yourselves. Remember what you’ve been taught and play within that. So often teams lose games because guys start playing outside what they’ve been asked to do. Trust your mates and know they have your back.

4. Have fun! Relish this moment. Two teams have a shot at this each year. That means an awful lot of young men and women will go through life wondering what it would have been like to be in your shoes. Enjoy this! Don’t be afraid to win!

5. PLAY LIKE CHAMPIONS TONIGHT! Play with the champion’s heart, mind, spirit, & attitude. OWN THE CHAMPIONSHIP! CLAIM IT! OWN IT! BE IT! DON’T LET ANYONE TAKE THIS MOMENT AWAY FROM YOU! NOT THE PRESS! NOT THE FANS! NOT THE MEDIA! AND CERTAINLY NOT THEbenchwarmers!!!!!

GO OUT THERE TONIGHT AND SHOW THE WORLD WHAT STATUTORY GRAPE IS ALL ABOUT! WE TALK ABOUT THE TRADITION THAT EXISTS HERE! WE TALK ABOUT GREAT MEN AND WOMEN. WE TALK ABOUT THE COLORS. WE TALK ABOUT NORWOOD NOT GETTING IT UP! YOU’RE NOT ALONE ON THAT FIELD!

THE GHOSTS OF THE NETWERK LEMONS PAST WILL BE WITH YOU!

All season long we’ve talked about what it takes to be considered truly extraordinary. What it takes to be considered great! There are people in this world who are afraid to be great! They’re afraid to be champions only because they are afraid of the work and commitment required to be in the champions pantheon!

BUT NOT YOU! LOOK AT YOUR COLORS! LOOK AT YOUR GLOVES AND ABSORB WHAT IT IS TO BE A PART OF THE SPECIAL FRATERNITY OF STATUTORY GRAPE SOFTBALL PLAYERS! ABSORB THE TRADITION! PLAY FOR THE TRADITION! PLAY FOR YOURSELVES!

GO OUT THERE AND BE CHAMPIONS! BE CHAMPIONS AT HALLEN FIELD!

On behalf of the team…Thank you Jay. Thank you.

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