The scene is irresistible.
Lily Long, the 23-year-old former pitcher for championship Oklahoma City University softball teams, demonstrates the intricacies and physical contortions of the softball pitching motion for 8-year-old Sydney Angle.
Sydney, a fierce competitor on the diamond and devoted “wall ball” freak off of it, stands there, as Long tells the story, just laughing and laughing.
“No,” she says, “this is just really silly.”
But Sydney got down to business this past spring with Long, her pitching teacher at Gametime Sports Academy, and pitched for the first time in competition the weekend before she and six of her schoolmates were killed in the May 20 tornado at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore.
Sydney played machine pitch softball for her team, Bring It '04, in the Moore Girls Softball Association. She played outfield, some third base, some shortstop and some at pitcher, said her father, Dan Angle.
The weekend before the tornado, the team played “up” in their first games of kid pitch, without pitching machines, at the Legacy SportsPLEX on NW 122 Street in Oklahoma City.
They took something of a drubbing that day but had a few good innings, Dan said.
Still, it didn't matter how much Dan explained that the other girls were older, bigger, more experienced.
“She didn't want to hear it,” he said.
That was the competitor in Sydney, the “spunky” kid who learned to throw strikes. She was stubborn, confident, a ball of energy who wasn't afraid to get dirty.
“She threw pretty hard for an 8-year-old,” Long said. “She's not one of those girlie girls.”
For her 9th birthday on April 15, Sydney went to Academy for a RipStik, a skateboard with a motion that imitates a snowboard or surfboard.
With her leftover money, Dan said, she got a jug full of racquetballs for her favorite pastime, wall ball — bouncing, catching and dodging a ball thrown against a wall.
Her racquetballs would quickly disappear, used up for wall ball, lost, or given away to friends.
“We had to play wall ball wherever we went,” Dan said. “Sitting idle wasn't for her.”
Bring It '04 coach Landon McNeill said Sydney was the kid who wanders out of the dugout or cracks jokes, but when she put on a glove “every ball was her ball.”
“Once she stepped onto the field she demanded so much from herself it wasn't funny,” he said. “It's like her mind ran 90 to nothing.”
After Sydney's death, McNeill said, the University of Oklahoma softball team took time out from their run to a national championship to host the Bring It girls for an afternoon of fun, helping take their minds off the tragedy.
Dan said Sydney listened to music wherever she went — like a lot of third-graders, she was into boy band One Direction but was also getting into country artists, including Luke Bryan and Darius Rucker.
Huddled with classmates in the hallway at Plaza Towers as the storm approached, Sydney and one of her best friends, Macy Riel, held hands.
They'd squeeze, then relax their grip, each letting the other know she was OK.
Macy held on, never letting go, through the whole thing, Dan said.