LAURINBURG — Football will always be my favorite sport — it’s not like children, I can have a favorite — but softball holds a special place in my heart.
Like most children I played tee ball, then graduated to coach-pitch before facing off with the dreaded pitching machine. After that it was on to live pitching, which is where I ended my softball career at the ripe-old age of 13.
I wasn’t a bad softball player, I even made the all-star team when I was nine, it was that all of the other girls in my age group were significantly better than me. A handful of those girls I graduated high school with went on to play college softball, my game wasn’t at that level.
I had a very specific skill set, I could throw the ball a mile which made me a great outfielder — which is where I played most of the time — and could lay a bunt down with the best of them. The only problem with being an excellent bunter was I wasn’t exactly speedy down the baseline, so most of the time it went down as a sacrifice bunt. My coaches always told me that I was very knowledgeable when it came to the game, but knowing the ins and outs of the game wasn’t enough.
As the girls I was playing with steadily improved, I plateaued and realized that I had outgrow the sport I had grown up with. Even though I was done with softball, it wasn’t done with me. My younger sister was a pitcher and my dad would use me as a stand-in batter to help her practice — which always ended in her “accidentally” pegging me in the side with the ball.
After my sister and I stopped playing softball my dad took a coaching position at one of the local high schools. He still coaches and has my sister come in and work with the pitchers on occasion and now I cover it — we’re just a softball family.
Every year when softball season rolls around I get nostalgic about my playing days. I still love the crack of the bat when the ball hits the sweet spot, the pop of the catcher’s glove and the animated umpires yelling ‘strike three.’
It’s also one of my favorite sports to take pictures because it’s always my goal to take the photos that give people a chance to see all the different aspects of the game. So if you see me laying the dirt or crouched down in the dugout I’m just trying to get a great photo and let everyone in on why I love softball so much.
Amber Hatten can be reached at 910-506-3170.