The sport got more competitive as I grew up, and it took more effort to stay on the top. Year after year, though, I was invited to join additional teams and was voted for the All-Stars. There was no question in my mind that I had talent and ability. In this one small section of life I didn't have to worry about what was being said about me and who thought what. It simply didn't matter to me. I did my best, and my best was enough to make me special.
Softball was the first time I learned about working out, and I spent a lot of time practicing. During the season I had mandatory practice times, but off-season it was up to me to continue building my skills. I had a net set up in the backyard that would throw the ball back to me. I could practice fly balls, grounders, and line drives depending on where I threw the ball on the net. In the front yard I had an exercise trampoline. I would jump on the trampoline and use it as a spring board for various gymnastics moves. It was no wonder that I had strong legs and arms.
My favorite piece of equipment, however, was the portable tape player I carried around from one yard to the other. I made a tape of songs that I would exercise to, and I played it over and over. To this day those songs inspire me to move. Our muscles really do have a memory. My poor husband must have thought I was nuts when John Fogerty's "Centerfield" came on the radio and my right arm started "throwing" a ball. Man, did I want to put on a glove and grab a ball!
There were a few injuries during those years that were more than minor. There were several trips to the hospital for x-rays, and my parents should possibly have bought stock in the Ace bandage company. Sprained ankles and a torn ligament in my knee caused me to get pretty good at getting around with crutches stuck in my arm pits. All in all I wasn't slowed down for long, and it was never difficult to get back into a routine that included exercise.
Perhaps the scariest injury during those years was the day I lost my eye-sight for several hours. I had been practicing fielding grounders on the infield and had dragged my glove through the freshly laid white dust. Not thinking anything about it, I moved to catching fly balls in the next rotation. My glove was positioned directly above my eyes, and when the first fly ball landed a puff of powder coated my face. I instantly dropped to the ground, head in my hands.
I don't remember who carried me off the field, but my family got me in the car for another trip to the emergency room. Looking back on it, knowing I can see just fine now, I can laugh. At the time, though, it was not funny. My brother apparently thought it was, though. He kept holding up his fingers and saying, "How many fingers am I holding up?" The terrifying part is that I honestly had NO idea. None. The only thing I could see was the shadows from the street lights as my dad drove under them.
I knew that injury was pretty serious when the hospital didn't have an emergency bed open, but they started treating me in the hallway right away. Great big cups were placed in both of my eyes and saline solution was pushed through. By the time my eyes were done being flushed, my shirt was soaked and I was freezing cold. I was also embarrassed because people were walking by, and I could only imagine they were starting at me. At 15 years old I didn't quite comprehend that people staring at me was the least of my worries, especially when dealing with my eye-sight. I was still invincible in my own mind. I had every confidence the doctors, nurses, and most importantly, my parents, wouldn't let anything bad happen to me that would be long-term.
Fortunately, this time, I was right. After my eyes were flushed and eye specialist looked at my eyes and determined that I had hundreds of tiny little cuts on my cornea. Apparently, whatever was used to mark the lines on the field is not a good thing to get in your eyes. I was sent home with special eye drops and instructions to wear sunglasses at all times, inside and outside.
My first glance at what it would be like to have a life-changing disability was fortunately pretty short-lived. I was only "blind" for a matter of hours, and within a week I was back to normal for the most part. It took a long time to get over being sensitive to the light, but I could see, and that was really all that mattered. As soon as possible I was back out playing softball.
My hugely disappointing injury came just a few months later. You'll have to wait until next time to hear that story, though. Until then... thanks for sharing my junior high years!