I’ve been pining over doing a post about playing the NPF series in my hometown for quite a while, but it’s been hard to put into words what the week truly meant to me.
Picture this… a story my mom loves to tell…
At a very young age my whole family would go to Caswell to watch my dad play slow pitch. Caswell bathrooms happened to be one of the first with automatic flushers and they scared little Coley to death.
Fast forward to playing traveling softball at the same complex, playing in what felt like the biggest game of my life- my moms a nervous wreck- but she could find peace in that bathroom thinking of how far we have come.
Then on to high school ball, where the state tournament was held. Where I pitched in my last high school game, again at a field with so much history, and a bathroom my mom could always find comfort in.
To this… PROFESSIONAL SOFTBALL… Heights I never imagined reaching, playing on those same fields that as a little girl I was so terrified of using the restroom at.
Boy how fast the years have gone.
The weeks and days prior to coming home I felt so many emotions, with such high hopes of what was to come. Those high hopes were exceeded…
Opening day was delayed due to weather, leaving us wondering when we were going to get to play. Finally the call was made to move the game up from 7pm to 1pm.. we wondered how the turnout would be for a mid day- mid week game.
Seeing so many familiar faces drop everything and make it to the game to support my team, the Mankato Peppers and myself was just the first of so many humbling moments.
Warming up for game 1 felt so comfortable, I’ve done this same warm up on these same fields hundreds of times. No nerves, just unexplainable excitement to take the field for the first time.
Finally it was time for team introductions, where they announced the full team starting at number 1.. they finally got to number 17 and I got ready to go around the circle next, when my name was skipped. They saved my introduction for last and the applause was heartwarming. My teammates were excited for me as well, which made it even that much more special.
We were the away team so we had to hit first, but then it was time to take the field. It was honestly like a movie…
“Now taking the mound, Mankato’s own Coley Ries”
The crowd stood and applauded for an even longer and louder ovation than before… in that moment I had to just look at the ground- because I’m confident if I would’ve looked up and saw all the familiar faces so proudly welcoming me, I undoubtedly would’ve gotten choked up.
Aside from the Bandits going 5-0 on the week, putting on defensive and offensive displays, it wasn’t about that. It was about showing Minnesota what Pro Fastpitch is all about. Providing a unique, hands on experience, for the softball community.
This is what really touched me. I always felt so supported throughout my high school and collegiate careers but this entire week was eye opening and truly left me in awe.
The amount of little girls looking up at me the way I looked at so many of my idols growing up was something I will remember forever.
The Pro Fastpitch League is truly something special. We aren’t just athletes, we aren’t just softball players for the summer, we are role models– a positive influence on the future generation of our sport.
It truly puts everything into perspective. The impact we make on the kids is far more important than our physical abilities. Whether you have the best game of your life or the worst, it’s important to be grateful for where you are and make sure to react to either situation with grace.
The kids in the stands aren’t going to remember if you won or lost, but they will surely remember what you said to them or how you made them feel.
Seeing friends, teammates from many different phases of life, past coaches, mentors, neighbors, and family was something I will cherish for a lifetime.
Thank you to…
- Mankato Peppers
- Mangulis and Brielmaier family
- The Peppers board
- Caswell field crew
- Caswell concession workers
- Pro Fastpitch League
- Chicago bandits and Beijing Eagles
- KEYC (Claire dau)
- KTOE (Barry Wortel)
- The Mankato Free Press
& so many more that I know had a huge involvement and I’m forgetting.
I’m so proud to represent Mankato/Minnesota in the Professional Fastpitch League.
(Rhonda Milbrett photography)