Since the first time I wrapped my tiny little hands around a wooden bat and swung for the fence, I have been in love with the game of baseball. Every year around this time I find myself writing a post about my love of the sport. I can’t help myself. The smell of freshly cut grass and spring flowers alert my senses. I am loaded with images of standing on a dusty ball diamond filled with the anticipation of hearing the smack of the ball hitting the leather of my glove. And as every winter passes, I find myself looking forward to spring, or as I like to call it, ball season.
A long time ago the passion of baseball poured itself into my veins. When I stand on the field, I become someone else. I am able to forget the daily stresses in my life and focus on the game. I become a teammate. A cog in the wheel. A part of a family. A family I would do anything to please, even if that means breaking a bone. Tearing a ligament or ripping flesh from my shin or ass as I slide into a base. I play hard. I work even harder to be a part of the team I consider are my family.
It is more than just running from base to base or sliding into home in which pumps the blood in my heart. I could throw a thousand players out at second base from centre field with pride, however, it is the comradery of my teammates in which fills my heart. My real love is the experience of standing beside another player and knowing with all my heart they also are working as hard as I, to either make the out or score a run. No matter what, I know that teammate has my back.
On the field, differences are set aside. We become one. This is where my heart truly rests, in the love of the team in which I play.
This spring was no different from every other since I was five. Pulling my ball gear out of storage and lacing up my cleats my stomach still clenched and filled with butterflies. It’s hard not to love a game in which still permeates excitement inside you. Much like a child, I could feel myself vibrating as I walked towards the diamond. Nervous yet elated to be back at the park I placed my glove on my hand and felt like I was home. If you play ball, you know what it feels like to place your glove on your hand after a long winter. There is nothing like it.
My first game this season didn’t go as planned. In the first inning, I injured myself. That isn’t to say I didn’t finish the game or play the two other games scheduled that day. Because I did, through pain and a few beverages filled with self-medicating liquid. Also known as beer.
Opening day for me this year ended in a sadness I wish all teammates could understand. Yet never experience. When I was told by the emergency room doctor I would have to have surgery for the torn ligament in my thumb, it brought tears to my eyes. Surgery meant possibly missing the entire year of baseball. It meant being away from the team I call family.
It meant…I knew the injury depression was about to set in and there was nothing I could do to stop it. I had been here too many times to not see the warning signs. I sunk inside myself and stepped away from the team which no longer needed me. The team I could no longer help, or have their back when running for a ball in the outfield. I couldn’t cover my players at first, or run home for them when they could not. In my mind I became useless. Broken. Unneeded. Not a part of the team I passionately pour my heart into while standing on that diamond.
Team players often feel depression when injured, I am not a phenom. Well, other than the frequency of my injuries.
I am what you might call injury prone. I play hard. I work even harder at performing as best I can for my teammates. No matter what.
Since breaking my first bone diving for a ball in the outfield over ten years ago, I have wasted my fair share of time on the Disabled List. I have spent ten weeks in a full arm cast bent at the elbow. I have had over five surgeries and have lost count of all my broken bones.
It never gets easier. Often I hear, “Well, you should be used to it by now.” I am not used to it. No one ever gets used to being hurt. Nor have I gotten used to sitting on the sidelines.
I am a ball player through and through. During the spring and summer months, I spend most of my weekends at the ballpark. Playing ball with my friends and teammates feels as much like family as my own children. Losing the ability to play the game I love is heart-wrenching. Feeling alienated from my teammates is gutting.
I have been asked by teammates on many occasions in the past ten weeks why I haven’t come to the park to watch my team play. My answer is simple. If I can’t help my team on the field, I feel worthless as a teammate.
There is a certain comradery felt on the diamond that cannot be felt from the bench. Especially sitting on the bench due to an injury. I am probably as close to an expert as anyone could be on this subject.
For the past ten weeks, I have felt the onset of depression due to my injury. I have distanced myself from the love of my sport and have spent many nights swallowing tears while my team played on without me. I have felt alone because my love for this game is built deep within my bones. ( Obviously, my love for the game doesn’t make bones stronger ).
In the upcoming weeks as I return to the field to play I am more nervous than I was opening day. My butterflies are more like dragonflies bouncing off the walls of my stomach. The fear of re-injuring my thumb is imminent, causing an apprehension I am not used to as a player who works hard to be better than her last play. Her last hit. Her last throw. Not working at one-hundred percent is also a rough battle in the mind game which is baseball.
I will persevere as best I can. As I have in the past. Nevertheless, to the ones who know the DL as well as I do. I feel you. I have compassion for the strength it takes to return to a team you felt you may have lost. I know what it takes to come back from an injury and feel a little less a part of the team you once poured your heart into. Broken a bone for or had surgery. I take off my cap to each of you who has returned to the field. You are what makes the game as great as I believe it to be.