This fall, I signed up for a very different kind of campus job. I volunteered to have softballs zipped at me.
“This was a good idea,” I thought as squatted down in my gear behind the plate, preparing to catch my first pitch as I started as the UD softball team’s new bullpen catcher.
I had so much adrenaline running through me, I was lit up like a Christmas tree. All I wanted to do was prove I was good enough. The pitcher started her windup and suddenly, I had two thoughts: First, here’s your shot, kid! And second, absolute panic.
It felt like seconds passed and then I realized she had thrown it. I went through my checklist — I was alive, that was a good start. Nothing felt immediately broken, another win. Then I realized I had the ball right in the pocket of my glove.
I threw it back (as casually as I could). I had just caught a college-level pitch, and it was awesome (cue the internalized screaming). Of course, I then realized I had to do it a couple hundred more times. But I was there and I was doing it.
Softball was the thing I missed the most about high school. Not the homecomings and proms or the Friday night lights of a football game. Just playing softball.
Softball was the thing I missed the most about high school.
I don’t actually remember a time when I wasn’t playing softball, and it’s fair to say I was, and still am, obsessed. I watched both baseball and softball, studied my favorite catcher, Yadier Molina, went to extra practice sessions, and played year-round.
When I finally received my high school varsity jacket in the middle of the summer, I turned the air conditioning down as low as it would go in our house so I could wear it all night without sweating to death.
My senior year, I suffered a back injury and never believed I was good enough to play in college, so I found myself without softball for the first time in my freshman year at UD. It didn’t take me long to miss it.
That’s where I still found myself the summer before my junior year.
I had always regretted not at least trying to play college ball and was plagued with thoughts wondering if I could actually do it. But then, I opened an email. I was actually trying to delete the email from Handshake, UD’s on-campus job website, when I accidentally opened it and saw the softball team bullpen catcher job staring back at me.
After quickly sending the coach a message expressing my dire interest, I sent the job description to my parents, my boyfriend and my softball coaches from high school, whom I am still close with. I stayed up all night watching old games, studying them.
Upon returning to campus for the fall semester, I was asked to interview. I memorized the entire roster, including names, positions and years, and took softball IQ quizzes online for hours convinced they would quiz me to see if I was cut out for the job.
They didn’t quiz me, but after another meeting with Coach Cara LaPlaca, I was hired. I was going to catch again, and I was over the moon. Actually, I was probably over Mars I was so excited.
Several days later, I received my first bullpen assignment and it hit me — I’m going to catch for college-level pitchers.
I was nervous, and I mean really uneasy. I had never caught any pitcher who could throw more than a fastball and changeup; I was looking at suddenly having to catch four other pitches that I had never caught before.
I hadn’t put on my gear since my senior year, and I knew these girls were good — as in completely capable of seriously hurting me. I have absolutely no idea why they’re called softballs. I was never one to be scared of getting hit before, but these ladies are throwing hard enough to break my hand or fingers through my glove easily.
I have absolutely no idea why they’re called softballs.
I don’t actually remember much of my first day. I don’t even really remember who I caught or how I did, but I do remember I walked up to find out I was catching my first time next to the starting catcher, Grace Gressly ’23.
Working and talking with Grace that first day was the best experience. I had never met her, but she talked to me like I had hung out with her last weekend. If I hadn’t already known, I was reminded — catching is great, but the people are better.
Now I go out, have fun, get away from everything with really awesome people and get paid to do it — which, I have actually told everyone I would totally do it for free, but I was informed by my father that this was a terrible business strategy. I guess I’ll have to remember that when I am graduating and trying to find a job, but it is true … I would do it for free.
I guess I’ll have to remember that when I am graduating and trying to find a job, but it is true … I would do it for free.
I have been given an amazing opportunity to prove to myself that I am good enough to catch college-level pitchers. I’ve met a whole new group of incredible women, and I get to live out my dream every time I step onto the field.
Dayton’s softball 2022 season will begin spring semester as the team attempts to make it back to the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship.