It Would be a Long Day

Greg Cruthers & Hayley Cruthers - Ball State University SoftballMy wife and I left the house around 6:00am Saturday morning to watch our baby's first games as a Ball State Cardinal.  The drive takes us just under 4 hours to get to Muncie, Indiana.  It was a chilly morning, but not a cloud in the sky as the day went on to become almost 70 degrees. 

They would be playing a double header, but we had no idea whether she would get to play or not.  They've got 20 very talented girls on their roster and are expected to contend for another Mid American Conference Championship next spring, so the incoming freshman will have an uphill battle to get any playing time.

One thing for sure is that it was going to be a long day as at some point after the games we would have to say goodbye to our baby and drive back home.  It's something parents just like us have been doing for many years before us and will continue to do after this part of our journey is over.

More than the Games

I was excited to see Hayley in her college uniform for the first time, taking warm-ups with the music at the stadium blaring and maybe get into one of the games.  She's adjusting to the college lifestyle as all freshmen have to.  It's not homework, but studying for tests that is the norm.  She has little free time compared to non-athletes at college.  They've got mandatory study tables every week, tutors for classes and separate study times for that, strength training, conditioning and softball workouts.  Naps are her new best friend.

Meet the Parents

We spent parts of the first game meeting many of the parents from our new team.  We'll be seeing these folks a lot over the years, especially the other freshman parents.  It was the same with travel softball and I'm sure we'll extend some of these friendships for years to come as well.  The parents of the older girls can be the source of a lot of good advice and answer all the questions that they once asked.  You find you have an awful lot in common with the other parents after talking with them about their daughters and travels.

Icing on the Cake

She didn't get into the first game, but played almost the entire second game.  She played 1st base and made several nice defensive plays, went 1-2 with an RBI double, walk, and scored a run.  While I'm sure she had some butterflies in the beginning, they surely paled in comparison to ours.  As I have written about before, we as parents always want our daughters to be successful and that will continue to be true well beyond the softball fields.  Her performance was the icing on the cake for this leg of our softball journey.

Hayley's first college at bat

Saying Goodbye Again

After the game we spoke with the new head coach briefly before taking Hayley out to dinner.  I will be writing extensively about the college recruiting process and the college years in the future.  During the games a few former players came by to watch and chat with the parents of their former teammates.  You hear them talk about how much the miss the game and the team.  It's a reminder that the journey ends for everybody sooner or later.

After dinner we took Hayley to the grocery store to restock her dorm room.  We were hoping to meet her roommate, a member of the field hockey team, but that didn't happen.  The fellow athletes seem to have a lot in common as they're going through a lot of the same experiences.  And so Hayley walked us down to the car and we said goodbye again. 

We'll see her next weekend at Illinois State University.  Her birthday is the following weekend, but we are not sure if we'll see her yet.  The next weekend we'll see her at their final fall games at the University of Louisville.  After that we may not see her until Thanksgiving and Christmas.  From January through the end of the school year and softball season in May she will not be able to come home.  We will have to travel to the games in order to see her.  And that is a glimpse of what it's like being the parent of a college softball player.