In the spirit of reflection that the end of every school year and every season brings, I have had a chance to think about softball, being a student-athlete at Yale, and what I might be able to take away from my four years here.
A few months ago, I wrote about last firsts: the last first morning practice, the last first bus trip, the last first home game. Those last firsts have now come and gone, and the lasts have begun to replace them. The ultimate last looms ahead this weekend when my fellow senior teammates, and many other athletes, will pull on their Yale jersey and step onto the field for the last time as a Bulldog.
In a conversation a few weeks ago, a teammate asked me if I ever thought about the fact that softball, or any sport, has little to no meaning outside of the meaning that we give to it. At the time when she asked me, the answer to this question was not really. I had certainly thought about why I was doing what I was doing or what skills I might be gaining in the process, but I had never seriously thought about if any of it really mattered.
This past weekend, my team and I traveled north to face Harvard. Being from just 20 miles north of Cambridge, playing at Soldier Field has always felt like somewhat of a home game to me. I have memories of going to Harvard catching camps as a kid, hitting clinics on Sunday nights, and sitting in the stands watching the Crimson in action over the years. And I remember, more than anything, dreaming about playing on that field.
We lost the first three games of our four-game stint with Harvard. But on Sunday, in the fourth and final game, we came away with a late-game rally to win 3–1. It was the first time in my four years we had beaten Harvard — in fact, it was the first time Yale had beaten the Crimson since 2009. For the first time and last, I walked away from a win on Solider Field.
What Harvard reminded me of was something that I too often take for granted: that playing a sport in college was at one point not just something I did. It was a dream. I was reminded of the countless hours spent working and watching and striving and hoping to one day step onto that field. I remember the players I looked up to and the Sunday morning spent hitting in my basement. I remembered playing catch in my backyard with my dad. I had a long time ago — so long that I had almost forgotten — decided that this way my dream and I would do anything to chase it. Following a dream and seeing it realized seems, at least to me, to carry with it some sort of meaning.
All the work, the sweat, the hours and weekends were not spent alone, either. I walked away from Harvard’s field the other day surrounded by 19 friends. Beyond the fences were more friends and family cheering me on. And for all the years spent striving towards this goal, there have been dozens of others teammates and coaches, mentors and friends who have been a part of it all. Towards them, I have nothing but gratitude. Those relationships, too, have given the entire experience meaning.
Only a few more days stand between me and the end of my career. My body is sore, my spikes worn down, my mitt on the verge of coming unraveled. This weekend, I play for my teammates. I play for the name of the front of my jersey, a jersey I dreamed of pulling on for so long. I play for the little girl who used to play catch on the pitchback in her driveway, who couldn’t wait for spring to roll around and who spent every weekend of every summer at the ball fields. I play for the girl who dared to dream, and who too often forgets to be thankful for the opportunities she’s been given and to those who have made those possible. To me, it doesn’t get more meaningful than that.