■ EDITOR’S NOTE: Emma Hawthorne is a Hallsville High School graduate who also graduated in May from Northwestern State University with a degree in health and exercise science. She plans to return to Northwestern State in the fall to pursue a master’s degree and play a final season of softball. This summer she’ll play softball with Team Impact in the Florida Gulf Coast League, and she has agreed to share her experiences with Longview News-Journal readers.
Thursday, June 18, was opening day for the Florida Gulf Coast League, and it was such an exciting day. There was an opening ceremony before the games that definitely did not disappoint.
All seven teams that are a part of this league stood around the infield while every single coach and player was introduced.
After this, Michele Smith, one of the best female fastpitch players of all time, threw out the first pitch. In college she played for Oklahoma State from 1986-89 where she was an All American and set numerous records, but she accomplished much more after that. She is a two-time Olympic Softball gold medalist with the USA women’s national softball team and is also a USA Softball Hall of Famer.
She has been an ESPN softball analyst since 1988 and was the first woman commentator for a Major League Baseball game. I even got the chance to meet her which was an honor, because she has been such an inspiration to softball players all over the world.
After the opening ceremony, it was time for our first game of the season versus Fastpitch U. I was so excited to be back in a softball uniform and playing the game I love. Our first game was quite a thriller, but we came out with the win.
My team had a rough start, getting down 7-1 in the second inning. It was everyone’s first game since the beginning of March, so it took us a while to settle in. We came together as a team and did not give up. We began stringing hits together every inning and putting runs on the board.
Our defense was not as sharp as we would have liked it to be, but our bats made up for it during this game.
However, there was one bright defensive spot when my fellow NSU teammate, Jensen Howell, turned a triple play all by herself one inning which was awesome. We fought until the very end and ended up winning 13-10 for the season opener. I was happy to have contributed three RBIs to the team win.
My coaches and teammates had been working hard to make sure that we were prepared for opening night. The game might not always go as planned, but great teamwork and determination will always pay off in the end.
Our week consists of games every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday in the evenings followed by a double header on Saturday mornings. Wednesdays and Sundays are our off days, so we use those days to explore the city and go to the beach.
We have full access to the Square Up Academy every day, so every morning we meet with our coach for voluntary hitting practice. We usually hit for an hour and then workout in the gym for another hour.
So far, my experience has been everything I had hoped it would be, and I am so thankful that I was given this opportunity.