Homerun Summer 

By Jacqui McLean 

Summer typically represents a period of rest and relaxation. However, that has not been the case for any of my summers the past ten years. Instead of going on typical family vacations to Hawaii or Lake Tahoe, my family travels across the country, often to remote locations, for travel softball tournaments. This particular summer, I visited numerous locations: Irvine, Kansas City, Denver, Hemet, Reno, and Stockton. While the experience was draining and at times extremely stressful, being able to play the sport I love all summer was incredible. 

One tournament in particular stands out to me, the biggest tournament of the country: Colorado Sparkler. With close to 1,000 teams and over a 100 college coaches, this tournament provides the best atmosphere for competitive games and recruiting opportunities. However, the best opportunities at tournaments are the camps and individualized games. I decided to sign up for the All-Academic game. The game consisted of athletes taking accelerated classes and ranked  in the top of their class by GPA. All participants were hand selected through a rigorous application process which included a questionnaire and three supplemental essays. Once selected, I was approved to play in the All-Academic game. Unlike most games, where I play alongside my teammates, I was playing with girls who I had never met before. At first I was slightly trepidatious, but after warming up and talking with the other girls, I was excited to play. The game was extremely exciting, with numerous elite academic coaches in the stands. After the game, a couple college coaches stayed behind to speak with my team. They then selected two individuals to play in the All-Academic All-American game on ESPN day. Praying I would get selected, I beamed with joy when the Jamestown softball coach handed me my invitation. I don’t think I have ever been as excited about softball as I was at that moment. 

The next day I returned to the fields to play yet another competitive game of softball with my academic peers. This time however the stands were packed with the most people I have ever seen at a game. My extended family, mom, grandma, and teammates all showed up to support me. After a quick photo shoot with my team, the game began. Contrary to what I expected, I was very calm playing this game and instead of stressing over my performance, I chose to embrace the fact that I was able to play in such an elite game. Unfortunately, after a close seven innings, my team lost, but that experience will be one that I will never forget. 

It is moments like these that remind me why I play the game. Hearing my family as well as hundreds of strangers cheer me on was truly a once in a lifetime experience. In the most competitive game of my life, I had the most fun. The Colorado Sparkler will forever be one of my favorite tournament experiences.