June 5, 2012
Wow! What an amazing weekend it was in Oklahoma City! There was no lack of excitement as the city was filled with enthusiastic fans of all kinds! Softball was obviously the main attraction for us, but with the OKC Thunder and San Antonio Spurs in town fans from all over came to enjoy some of the intense NBA playoff action at the Chesapeake Energy Arena. The traffic, parking, and wait lines at restaurants were a little grueling at times, but we tolerated those little speed bumps just fine and made sure to enjoy the little time we had in OKC to the fullest!
The weekend started off interestingly enough for me as I ran out the door on Friday to catch my flight and forgot my camera! Thankfully I realized my mistake a few miles down the road, and I still made it to the airport on time. After that it was smooth sailing as I had window seats in both flights and got to explore the Chicago O'Hare airport, which is one of the few airports I had yet to see on many softball adventures. At around 2:30 p.m. I landed to meet Coach Alameda and Celeste with smiling faces. It was somewhat of an adventure trying to find our rental car! Apparently there was a giant hailstorm the week before we arrived that damaged all of the rental cars we were scheduled to receive, so they had already switched us to another company. There were really no problems with the paper work, but when we went to find our car it seemed like we were sent in about ten different directions before Coacha was finally able to locate our Camry.
The ride to the hotel was relatively short, and when we arrived to our room Celeste and I were very pleased when we opened our door to find a beautiful suite with a living room and kitchen! Needless to say we felt pampered the whole trip, which we were very thankful to be able to experience. At 5 p.m. we were schedule to have a meeting with the other student athletes and coaches, so we could get our plans for the weekend, but again we hit a little snag. None of us read the email very thoroughly and assumed the meeting was at the hotel, but we were mistaken! Soon we found out we were supposed to have met at the Softball Hall of Fame at the fields where the World Series took place. Oops! We ended up arriving to the complex about 45 minutes late! From then on we were sure to read our emails, and call to check on times and places!
Throughout the weekend we were able to watch plenty of top-notch softball! The atmosphere was absolutely amazing! Almost 10,000 fans filled the complex during the biggest games, and it was easy to see how much softball has truly grown in the past few years! The team section fans were crazed at times with each of them cheering on their teams. The complex in OKC was beautiful with fans all around, vendors selling NCAA merchandise, and plenty of delicious snack vendors, but the most amazing part was seeing the passion and excitement the game brought to those all around the complex. To hear and see everyone there talking with so much enthusiasm about the teams and the game itself was amazing.
It's so fulfilling to know that the game which we all have played and loved for so many years is spreading so quickly and bringing in new fans each time it's played. Coach could certainly vouch for the amazing atmosphere in OKC, as she played not too far away in Norman, Okla., for the Sooners in her college career. She knew EVERYONE, and we were able to meet a few of her old teammates as well as plenty of other coaches and players that she has known for years.
Although Celeste, Coacha and I were able to take in so many of the amazing games that were going on in OKC, we were there for a specific purpose. The three of us, along with Coaches and student athletes from Radford, FAMU, Bellarmine University, UNC Greensboro and a few others had the amazing opportunity to work with hundreds of young and upcoming softball players in the YES clinic, as well as a wonderful bunch of growing athletes in the Special Olympics organization. On Saturday morning the three of us had the chance to work with pitchers and catchers ages 8-16. It was a great experience, as we had the opportunity to instill a little bit of new knowledge into each player that came to work with us. The younger groups were absolutely adorable and listened to every word of information with wide eyes and open ears. The older groups were also very attentive, and clearly had a great passion for the game. When asked about the World Series games, they all became very excited and it was easy to see they loved the game of softball.
On Sunday we were able to work the Special Olympics clinic, which was truly one of the most fulfilling aspects of the trip for me. All of the athletes came in with smiles on their faces and an eagerness to get going as quickly as possible. It was wonderful to see the upbeat attitudes of the athletes whose ages varied. The kids in the group as well as the older athletes enjoyed a softball game against each other, which was really a wonderful display of sportsmanship and good character. It was incredible to see the more talented athletes continuous encouragement of each of their teammates no matter if they missed a ball or made a great play, there were always kind words exchanged. Through their enjoyment of the game we were all able to appreciate being able to play the wonderful game of softball with them for a few hours. We were able to sign plenty of autographs for all the athletes who attended both camps, which was also an amazing experience. Seeing the joy and excitement that simply signing our names on t-shirts and softballs brought to younger kids as well as adults was truly amazing, and was a testament to why we play the game.
With so many amazing experiences in Oklahoma City, I would recommend going to a WCWS to anyone who loves the game of softball. It is truly an experience like no other. Each time a great play was made, a strike out was recorded, or a home run was hit, I could feel the goose bumps crawling up my arms. I could imagine OUR TEAM playing in the World Series games, but really I think it is more than just a dream for all of us who put on a Seminole uniform. After seeing the talent in OKC and the teams that were playing as the last eight in the country left standing, I know WE can be there. I have seen our team play countless great games against great teams. I have seen us execute all of the fundamentals of the game and come together to battle back for a win. I have seen the passion and love of the game that is needed to be one of the best eight teams in the country at the end of the year. We are all softball players, we can all play the game, but it's only us, as Seminoles, that can make this dream become a reality. Beginning this summer and in the off season I know my teammates will all be working hard towards being a WCWS team, and we as a team can be there.
The experience in OKC was eye opening and amazing for Celeste and I. We had the chance to experience the amazing event that we have dreamed of being at since we were little girls, and we got to help younger players in their journey to become collegiate athletes, and I can't imagine anything more fulfilling than that. After being at this amazing event, we have even more belief that we WILL be here next year as a team, and to all you reading this we can't wait to see you all in OKC watching us play next year!