Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Night of Softball Glory

Last night I had my very first-of-all-time softball game. That's right. I am a bonafide member of an actual sports team where I wear a legit jersey and own a glove and do sportsy things like run and put forth effort.

I know, I know, those of you who know me well are probably both surprised and a little bit worried. I've never been the athletic one in the family, but by golly I am 27 years old and determined to be a valuable member of this team!

So after a lot of practicing with my imaginary bat I was ready to not fail at this new athletic endeavor.  I had been to two practices, done my batting practice, and 10 minutes before the game started I had finally asked someone how you catch a ball with the beautifully brand-new and un-used softball glove on my right hand.

And then my moment came.
I was up to bat.
I had anticipated this moment for days. Elbow up, knees bent, eye on the ball (whatever that means), swing straight and swing hard, DON'T MISS. I bet I look pretty cool in this jersey right now. FOCUS! 

I missed on my first swing, but the friendly umpire said, "nice swing!" so I gained a bit of confidence and stared at the pitcher with eyes full of gumption and desperate hope. At the second pitch I heard that beautiful sound of metal bat on whatever-it-is-made-of softball contact. As I watched the ball hit the ground and start to roll I realized that I had done it. I had actually hit a softball and no one had caught it. So with complete surprise and excitement I ran as fast as these out-of-shape legs could take me and I jumped onto first base like I had just made a home run in the last inning of a tied major league game.
In all of my excitement I totally forgot to play it cool and started screaming, "I MADE IT ONTO A BASE! I ACTUALLY AM ON FIRST BASE!" And then I got my very first actual "good game" butt slap from my friend Jess. In my own glorified remembering of this monumental moment the whole team was also cheering in amazement that I had succeeded.

It was glorious my friends. Pure glory.

In the end I got to run to every base and go through home plate, which was a total dream come true (I had low expectations). Of course I had to ask my teammates at every base when I was supposed to run (turns out there is strategy in this game!) but afterwards I ran back to the dugout to a stream of high-fives and mediocre-glory, face flushed with accomplishment and joy (again, low expectations when it comes to sports). No lie, I immediately called my husband from the dugout (who was already asleep at the late hour of the game) to tell him what had happened and how awesome I was.

I, Meredith Agan (formerly Meredith doesn't-play-sports Carpenter), had actually hit a softball in a game and made a run.


Call the press, people, because this is big.

But here was actually my favorite part of the experience:

I had been so nervous that my team was going to be frustrated and critical of me because I am the worst softball player on the planet and I had joined their team just for fun. I knew I was going to let them down and I knew I was going to pay for that with cross words and disappointed looks. It is simply what I expected based on experience.

But that wasn't what happened. Not once. This group of people, who are my church by the way, were consistently encouraging and uplifting. Without an ounce of annoyance they explained the rules, gave me pointers without making me feel dumb, and celebrated my tiny baby victories. They took time to teach me how to throw and catch, they laughed at my ridiculousness, and they made me feel like a valuable member of the team, not just a liability.

This was the church in action.

We were all different people from different walks of life who wanted to win and wanted to do well, but there was an understanding that we were a team and supporting one another was our first goal.

This was a group of Christians that I wanted to be a part of. After isolating myself for years in my mission work, my job, my responsibilities, I had finally joined a group of church members to do something as a community. They were competitive but kind. Straightforward and forgiving. And I am going to put this out there. . . these Christians were fun! 

I know. I just shocked some of you right there.

In the end I drove home with a friend, yelling Sia's song Chandelier (I only know 8 words of the whole song but I was high on success so I owned it), and ended the night with an ice cream bar at 11pm (I know I went a little crazy, but come on, I earned that midnight snack). It was glory, and it wasn't glory just because I stayed up way past my bedtime and ate ice cream, it was glory because I really felt like I was a part of something.

I felt as if, in the words of an animated penguin, I was a "meaningful and valued member" of the team, and I realized that I was finally connected to the Christian community and family that I had been longing for (yet perhaps avoiding) since I moved to this small town.

Joy had come in a game of late night softball and it was a new kind of beautiful.

Mentally preparing myself, in all my awkward glory, to throw the ball back to the pitcher. 

Look at that form! That left leg angle!  That softball simply soars! 

That is pure concentration and ready-stance, in case you were wondering. Also, I was totally afraid of being hit in the face by the ball. 

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