She quit. She packed up her gear, walked out of the dugout, said something to the head coach and walked away from the field, not looking back, leaving behind eight teammates to ask, “What the hell just happened?”
She just quit.
It was the bottom of the fourth inning in a two-run game.
This is the story of Sara. (Not her real name). OK, it is her real name, but I’m not putting a last name or what team she played for, so I’m hiding her anonymity so future potential employers won’t know she’s a quitter who will walk away when it’s time to learn something, or won’t know she’s the worst kind of team player imaginable.
She is … or, well, was … a travel softball player and right away the coaching staff knew there would be some issues.
She was what some people would call soft.
She would ground out, she would pout.
She would strikeout, she would pout.
Because she lacked foot-speed, she got thrown out from right field. Her head was gone for good, at that point.
Sara was part of the team because the team needed her. Due to some early summer-season number issues, which had players on the roster doing internships, working and taking vacations, it was a struggle to field a team, so when somebody suggested a pitcher to the head coach, he welcomed her.
So, too, did the team.
Sara was shy and always stood away from the team. She had to be invited into the team’s inner circle, but by the third tournament of the season she was part of the team, one of three pitchers used in a regular rotation.
She was a slightly below average pitcher, pitching over head against some tough summer competition. She probably threw more balls than strikes. And, she was a really below average hitter.
But softball, like baseball, is a game where you’re going to fail more than you’re going to succeed.
Mentally, she was never able to embrace that, and her negative Nellie attitude was draining on a team that was struggling to find its first win of the summer.
On Sunday, the team was in the thick of a battle in a game it could win.
Then, in the fourth inning, with runners on second and third, Sara — her team’s starting pitcher — stepped to the plate with one out.
It was a defining moment in the game. It proved to be a defining moment in her young life.
The third base coach gave her the suicide squeeze sign — which for those of you who aren’t sports fans is a simple bunt that must be put into play because the runner at third base is racing home at full speed.
The pitcher delivered. The runner at third broke for home with the pitch. Sara swung and missed. Fortunately, the catcher dropped the ball and the runner was able scramble back to third base.
From third base the head coach bellowed, “WHAT ARE YOU DOING? WE’RE SQUEEZING.”
Sara just looked dumbfounded.
“Do it again,” the coach ordered, giving the sign.
Then he added, “We’re squeezing.”
He told Sara. He told the defense. He world the world.
He was calling a suicide squeeze. Again.
The pitcher delivered. The runner at third broke for home with the pitch. Sara swung and missed. Again. Didn’t even pretend she was looking to bunt.
“SARA! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?”
The coach was angry. His coaching staff was stunned. She missed the sign twice and missed a verbal instruction that was as obvious as a sun in the sky.
When queried as to what she was thinking, Sara waved her hand at her coach and stepped back into the batter’s box.
The next pitch painted the outside corner. Strike three.
Sara stormed back to the dugout. Behind her teammates, behind her coaching staff, in the back of the dugout, she gathered her belongings and packed up her bag.
When the inning was over, Sara looked over the fence from outside the dugout and told the coach, “I quit.”
Then she walked off away from the field, nothing more than a quitter.
She left her team with eight players to finish out the game, which they lost 4-2.
The coaching staff was angry at Sara. The players were perplexed, but in the long run they all seemed to agree not having her around would be best for the team.
I was stunned.
If a kid doesn’t enjoy a sport, I understand the decision not to play anymore. But the only reputable way to do it is once the season is over and your commitment has been fulfilled.
I can even understand a kid quitting after a game, though it’s a choice I would never respect or understand.
But to walk away from a team sport mid-game? Leaving behind eight people who embraced you as a teammate, allowed you to become one of them?
I could understand the anger coming from the coaching staff, but more than anything I felt sorry for Sara. I felt sad for her and her future.
If she quit a summer softball team because she screwed up something so badly, what else will she quit over the course of the rest of her life?
Every time she failed, she pouted and refused to show any self-confidence, or even a hint at wanting to learn from her failures and grow from it.
The world of sports is full of life lessons. Likewise, many successful lives, without a doubt, can be traced back to the world of sports.
And part of both are parental decisions that help make the difference between success and failure.
Sadly, Sara is a quitter and will likely remain that for the rest of her life.
And that doesn’t make me angry. Instead, it just makes me sad.