Sunday, January 29, 2012

Opportunity knocks, but you gotta open the door - September 2011

When God made me, he left out a lot of “stuff” that regular people have - like the desire to please others, or an appreciation for weddings, or the love of homemade ice cream. But, in place of these emotions, desires and taste buds, he installed this pin hole of a soft spot that, when it is found, can be laid open like a parachute by the simplest thought. I guess you could say it’s kind of a chink in my armor, a vulnerable spec that if touched just right will bring tears. Even though I am good example of one of God’s minimalistic models, I do have an appreciation for someone who has an honest heart, and someone who makes a genuine effort.
That little pin hole was found the other morning as I listened to Coach Garland Murphree, former P.E. teacher at Julian Newman, close out Basketball Camp at Athens High School for the 2011 year. I do not know Coach Murphree, but from the little I saw of the camp and of him, he seemed so genuine in thanking the parents and expressing his love of teaching children basketball. I couldn’t help but be humbled and thankful for the opportunities that my children have to be involved in activities with such genuine people to teach them. I also can’t help but think about how spoiled and unappreciative my kids are to having so many opportunities. But, how can I be upset when I remember time after time my daddy taking me to events, showing me things that brought tears of boredom to my eyes. However, there was one event that I did take to heart.
As a girl growing up in the mid 70’s and to 80’s, I was on the very front edge of the wave that was swelling in favor of female sports. As you can guess, I was a tomboy and wanted so badly to play softball because that was very close to baseball. At age 8 or 9, my parents signed me up for the fledgling city league. I was chosen to be on the Angels with Coach Martin, who had a daughter named Gabby. She was two years older than me in age and many years older in skill. She became my role model, or I should say my goal model. I soon figured out what I was working toward and even though I was a shy, backward kid, I quickly found my niche on a softball field.
Daddy was a business owner and a truck driver during my life time, but he was educated and taught high school for a time before. He was a believer in learning. And, if I had an interest in softball, he was going to do what he could to foster it. After a few seasons, it became apparent that this was not a phase and that I had the desire and some skill. As I learned the game, I wanted desperately to be a catcher (this was fast-pitch). One summer, I think I was about 12 or so, a Pitching and Catching Clinic – they call it “camp” now, sounds more fun – was held at the girls softball field (notice that is singular “field”) behind Cowart Elementary School, which is located in West Athens, at the corner of West Hobbs Street and Bullington Road. But, the camp was during the day and my parents both worked and Mrs. Hagwood, the babysitter, didn’t drive. But, because I wanted to learn, daddy was determined that I would go. Next door to us on Aster Street, located between Walmart and Lowes now, lived three boys. Daddy paid the oldest, Troy, and the second, Daryl, to take turns riding their bikes alongside me half way, which was to downtown, and then meet me again when it was over for the ride home. I was so incredibly excited to go, and so much more to ride my bike… so I thought. When I got their each morning my legs were noodles and I could hardly squat. Nevertheless, I went eagerly. Did I become a catcher or a pitcher, you ask. Well, one thing for sure, in high school catching, I could not be beat on my throws. I threw fast, hard, and on point. However, the thing about catching is that you have to catch the ball before you can throw anybody out. It didn’t matter how well I threw the ball, I couldn’t catch it in the first place. I would always close my eyes when the batter swung. So, at best, I was second or maybe even third choice at catcher. In other words, the coaches had to be pretty desperate, but I did a little when needed. I did pitch some, but in similar situations. If we were losing so badly sometimes the coach would put me in to pitch in order to save the good pitchers or if we were in a tournament where their innings were limited, a coach might put me in to save their number of innings. So, at best, I could fill the spot to fill the spot. Now, you are asking, why did I love softball because it sounds like I was horrible? No, I was just really bad at those two things – and shortstop, but I could play any other position well, and mostly I was a good hitter.

So, as I taxi my kids to a thousand activities each week, I think about how precious that little clinic was to me, and how important it was to my daddy for me to go

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