A DOUBLE PLAY SUMMER
BY L.M. RICHARDSON
What starts as the best summer ever, quickly turns into a foul play. D.J. has to give up her bedroom, and the most important softball tournament of her short career, for Gran. Without D.J. the team isn’t confident they’ll be able to make it past the Summer Softball Showdown for a shot at Nationals. Being at Gran’s turns out to be more rewarding than D.J. could have imagined. Unexpectedly, Gran becomes her biggest advocate and cheerleader.
Eight is her number
McKinley is her name
Yes, she is the reason
We’re gonna win this game.
The dugout is cheering and going crazy. The bases are loaded and Big Mac is up to bat. Although she’s skinny, she got the nickname because she’s a finisher. Known for being a clutch player, sending balls deep into center field. McKinley’s hit the scoreboard at least five times this season and has knocked the ball over the fence at least six times. Someone from the stands once hollered Big Mac, and the name stuck.
It’s a full count with two strikes, three balls at the bottom of the seventh inning, and we’re down by two. If Big Mac lives up to her reputation, she’ll bring us all home, and we’ll win the game.
“Stay calm and focus,” Coach Todd yelled from the coach’s box.
The pitcher throws the ball, and crack! Big Mac sends the ball deep into center field right over the fence. Our dugout goes wild and they all run to home plate to welcome us in chanting:
We miss you
We miss you
“That’s the ball game!” The umpire yells.
It’s shaping up to be the best summer ever! I’m playing my dream position and our team chemistry is the best it’s ever been. Most of us have played together since twelve and under softball and we’re genuine friends. Coach says you can’t buy the kind of chemistry we’ve developed over the years.
I’ll dream about this game for months to come. I had four runs, made four outs, and almost a double play. Jade, my best friend and our first baseman, dropped the ball. But we’re working on making that play work. By the big tournament, we should have mastered it. We’re practicing, but game situations always come out different.
On the drive home, I gave a recap of the highlights to my family. They could barely get a word in. Mama finally said, “When we get home, we need to talk.”
“Are you kidding me?” I said, dropping into a chair at the kitchen table. “But it’s a big tournament for our team. Ma, it’s a big tournament for me!”
“There will be more tournaments this summer and the next. There is more to life than playing softball. Gran’s house is too much for her to take care of by herself, and her health has not been the best lately. She needs our help and we are going to give it to her. Our family is important and it comes first above everything else.”
“What about Uncle Jaxon or Auntie Liv and their families? Can’t they do it, or at least help? Why do we have to do it?”
“I can’t count on either of them right now. Your dad and I have discussed it and our decision is final.”
“And you never considered how your decision would impact me, or even how I’d feel about it? I’ve worked hard, really hard over, the last year to get better. And now that I’ve finally secured my position as shortstop, you’re snatching the rug from under me. I’m not saying I don’t want to help Gran, but can we do it after my tournament?”
“Don’t be so dramatic, Daisy. We’re all making sacrifices. And, I need you to move your things into your brother’s room before we leave. When we return, I want the room to be ready for your Gran.”
“D.J., Ma. Will you please call me D.J. all the time?”
From where I sit, it looks like I’m the only one making sacrifices around here. Gran is coming to live with all of us, but I’m having to give up my room and miss a crucial tournament. Other than my parents’ bedroom, mine is the next largest, with an ensuite bathroom. Daddy says he wants Gran to have her privacy.
I have to move in with J.P., my nine-year-old brother. His room smells like old cheese, he farts in his sleep, and still has an imaginary friend. I’d be better off sleeping in a closet. Since I’m a girl, my older brother, J.R. and J.P. should share a room. My parents wouldn’t even entertain the thought. So, I’m stuck.
Like I said before, I’m missing a crucial softball tournament. Mama thinks it’s just another tournament in a summer of tournaments. It’s so much more. I’ve worked my butt off to move from outfield to shortstop. I’ve practiced all year long, including during the off-season. I’ve always wanted to play shortstop since I first started playing when I was nine years old. Daddy took me to see a college softball game. Kattie Pierre was the shortstop. She was ridiculously good, catching balls and tagging runners between first and second base. Kattie stopped a ground ball, tagged second base, slung it to first, making a double play. From that day, I set my sights on playing shortstop just like her.
My coaches have always put me in the outfield because of my speed. Finally, Coach Todd gave me a chance to play in-field. So far this season, I’ve led our team in runs and outs. I haven’t made a double-play yet, but I’m looking forward to that day. I don’t want to let our team down.
This upcoming tournament is a game-changer for all of us. It’s the Super Summer Classic Showdown in Chicago. The top two teams are guaranteed a bid to the Midwest Nationals in Chicago. Coach Todd says we have a good shot. Playing on that level is the kind of opportunity softball players only get in their dreams. And it can open doors that high school leagues can’t. There will be college coaches from all over the U.S. looking for their next standout player. Although Kattie Pierre hasn’t played for years, she still attends.
When we return to practice tomorrow, I will have to tell my teammates and coach, that I won’t be going with them to the big tournament, and their shot at Nationals is basically in the hands of Mya.
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ABOUT L.M. RICHARDSON
As far back as she can remember, L.M. Richardson has wanted to be a writer. Her start came with a sixth-grade writing contest.Children’s books have always been her favorite of all other genres. Writing for children has always been her passion. Her aim is to create books where black young women can see themselves and be proud of who they are.Richardson is a wife, mother, and grandmother who enjoys spending time with her large family, relaxing on her patio, and cooking. She’s a college instructor at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, her Alma Mater, and has a MA in Journalism.