My job is to tell you the facts and the truth.
So I need to tell you a couple of facts and a truth about me you don’t know.
Fact: Just a few months ago, I hated softball.
Fact: Slappers infuriated me.
Fact: So did the enlarged size of the ball and the reduced size of the field.
Truth: When I was younger, my daddy asked me if I could play any sport, what I would play.
“Baseball,” I said. I’ll never forget at age 9 sitting along the first base line with my dad, a cracker jack box and an awe at watching Sammy Sosa smack that 63rd home run.
“You mean, softball, right?” my dad replied.
“No, baseball,” I said.
“Well, Steph, usually girls play softball,” he said.
That’s when I very emphatically looked at him and said: “If I’m going to play any sport than it’s going to play baseball. I don’t want someone throwing me a big yellow ball just because I’m a girl.”
I held on to that attitude for years. I never wanted anyone to take it easy on me just because I was a girl playing sports. (As a result, several boys felt the fury of my backhand on a tennis court. I also got my butt beat a lot too. It’s fine. It made me better.)
So then comes Oklahoma’s softball season. My editor told me I was going to cover the team. I called up my mom and reminded her how much I hated the game, how ridiculous I thought it was that in college basketball men and women play on the same size court but softball has a way smaller field than baseball and yadda yadda yadda.
Then I covered my first Oklahoma softball game and my second and I gained an appreciation. I began to realize I was being like all certain sports fans I despise. You know, the ones who act like they know everything about their favorite sports/team only for you to make them look like a flounder when you realize they only know the superstar’s name.
I didn’t understand softball when I was so much younger: why the ball was bigger and why the field was smaller. I never tried to understand slappers or the game. Then I was forced too and I realized that just like every other sport I have ever covered, I loved it. That’s not me exaggerating. If you were to ask me what my favorite sport is to cover, I would have to say all of them. (Yes, even the soccer games that may end in a tie after no one scored a goal.)
There’s strategy in that. There’s competition in that.
And while I still need to ask someone to explain the reason slappers first came about, players like Brianna Turang showed me why they matter in the game.
So here’s my new facts and truth:
Fact: Just a few months ago, I hated softball. And then I started covering a softball team and my dislike for the sport went away.
Fact: Slappers infuriated me. And sometimes they still do. I think if I were a pitcher, anyone who wanted to take a couple steps closer to me just to get to my first base that I was trying to keep them from … well, that just wouldn’t sit okay with me.
Fact: The enlarged size of the ball and the reduced size of the field also infuriated me. And okay, maybe it still does a little bit. But hey, the game is the game.
Truth: My best friend called me the other day. He asked how I liked covering softball. I told him I loved the game.