Monday, June 25, 2007

Tourney Time

It's Monday morning, and we're all recovering from a hectic weekend of softball, Kailey's first All-Star tournament. Overall, it was a good experience, even though the Southeast Boring White Jersey All-Stars came nowhere close to winning the tournament. I was, most of all, proud of Kailey, because this tournament was one of those times where you hope you can teach your children some important life lessons. While I can't proclaim with any measure of certainty that she learned that lesson, I'm confident that a solid foundation was put in place, and Diane and I, as parents, need to continue to build.

As I tucked Kailey in bed last night, we talked about the tournament and about those lessons and what she learned. At one point she asked me, "Daddy, why are you whispering?"

I played it macho. I couldn't tell her the real reason I was whispering; that I thought I might break down if I talked in my normal voice. That's how proud I was. I just told her it was late and we were talking in our goodnight voices. She was OK with that.

Enough of the mushiness and on to the details of All-Star Weekend: the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly.

The Good

The Southeast All-Stars played their hearts out. They had a rough start to the tournament and played five games in 30 hours, something probably none of them have ever done before. They very easily could have gotten down on themselves and given up, but they gave their very best to the bitter end.

Friday and Saturday's games were used to determine the tournament seeds. Actual tournament play took place on Sunday. Southeast played three games on Saturday to determine their tournament ranking. They went 1 and 2 and ended up being ranked 5th out of 6 teams. Ouch. I honestly wasn't expecting that. In their first game, they played the Amazon Women of Sahuaro, the softball juggernauts of Tucson. They are the Tucson softball equivalent of the New York Yankees...the very best that money can buy. Did I write that out loud? Everybody ("hates" is a really strong word) wants to beat them really, REALLY bad. Problem is, they're too big and too good. Their smallest player was as big as our biggest player. And they cleaned our clocks 9-0 on Saturday morning. Welcome to the tournament, ladies and germs.

The bats came to life and we bounced back in our next game against Las Ninas, winning 7-5. However, Kailey suffered a bit of a mental crisis. The girls were taking batting practice before the game, and Kailey cracked herself in the knee with her bat while warming up. She had a bruise, but I think the combination of injury, heat and fatigue took its toll on her little body. She didn't want to play and told Diane she wanted to go home. Since that wasn't an option, she instead sat out of the game until it was her turn to bat. That's when the pitcher hit her on the other leg. Talk about adding injury to injury. Kailey limped to first base and ran to second on the next batter's base hit where she collapsed on the base and burst into tears. Her coach scooped her up and carried her back to the shade of the dugout. We applied ice to her leg, and she sat out the rest of the game.

I thought Kailey's leg was well enough play. Diane thought so too. Her coaches graciously stayed out of it and supported and encouraged her as best they could. But Kailey had made up her mind that she was hurt and couldn't play at the risk of further injury. Thankfully, there was a nice long break between games two and three, so we went home, cleaned her up and laid her down for a much-needed nap. In fact, we all laid down for much-needed naps. We also gave her a nice long pep talk about teamwork and not giving up and working through adversity and all that not-so-crappy crap.

The bottom line was that her team needed her and she wasn't pulling her weight. Sure it was hot as hell out there, but everyone was playing in the same heat. And before the game, one of Kailey's teammates got hit in the nose during warm-ups unleashing a bloody geyser across right field. She played the whole game because Kailey was riding the bench with a slightly bruised knee. Kailey's response: "Well it stopped bleeding." I guess compassion isn't one of her strong suits.

After making sure Kailey was well rested, fed and hydrated, Diane and I basically told her she would play the next game. I guess compassion isn't one of our strong suits either. We weren't being cruel, overbearing sports parents (I don't think). But we know our children. We know when they're giving their all and when they're holding back. Kailey had a bruise on her knee half the size of a dime, yet she carried on as though she was
awaiting the amputation a gangrenous leg. We knew this was a situation she was going to have to push through, and we pushed her to do it.

Their third game was against a fundamentally sound Oro Valley team. I could tell by the way they were warming up that this would be a tough game. Kailey gave us a couple of last-ditch-effort whines before the game, but we encouraged her to stick with it. And she did for the rest of the tournament. Southeast gave them a great fight but fell short 4-2, thus cementing our 5th seed. If we were going to win the championship, we'd have to win three games on Sunday and beat the #1 seed Amazon Women of Sahuaro in game 2.
Incidentally, Oro Valley was the #2 seed.

Kailey played the game, and afterward we heaped on the praise. She didn't give her greatest performance, but she pushed through the pain, the discomfort, and the fear, and for that, I'm extremely proud. And she contributed to her team when the tournament officially started Sunday morning. be continued.

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