When you are 47, you tend to stray from the zeitgeist of the vernacular. Words appear out of nowhere from millenials. The kids have created this new language, truncating mine. At my day job, there are many millenials. Younger, smarter, sharper and nicer. Self-aware. But they use words that I have to google. Fam. Lit. Sick. Dope. Chill. GOAT. Once, at my company gym, a couple of friends told me that at first, I am intimidating as a co-worker because of my experience/knowledge but then they told me I was quite chill. The only thing I could think to say was "What does chill mean exactly?"
A 24-year old co-worker who used to sit across from me before I was sent home for 6 months because of COVID-19, calls me the GOAT. GOAT means Greatest of all Time. Its reserved for Lebron and other entertainers whose names I don't know or can't remember. Maybe Trout is a GOAT. I'm not sure. But he called me a GOAT. He doesn't REALLY think I'm a GOAT. He uses it out of respect for when I help him with various data issues. My contribution to this friendship is my dad-bragging about my 16-year old daughter who is a high-level softball player. We call her the MINI GOAT.
I have talked about her a lot here. I have another child who is a music prodigy but the competition for him has not yet begun. He is going to compete when he leaves college. But the other, the younger girl, is competing now and has been ascending through the local softball world for the last 7 years.
The MINI GOAT hit a crossroads last week. Her father, the GOAT, never amounted to much as a competitive athlete. He tried. I tried. I had some physical skill but I had nothing in the head. I didn't know how to compete. My parents weren't involved. When the pressure pressed, the brain froze. Tryouts for higher level teams were a mental adventure. One year, my friend's father was a "AA" coach and he told me he would draft me. I missed every pitch except 2 against the pitching machine in tryouts and my friend told me that his father wanted to take me but he couldn't since I didn't hit. "I understand" I said.
But MINI GOAT is something different. She is a mental magician. Oblivious to pressure. This crossroads was the 2nd major crossroads of her career. At 10 years old, a tiny sub 5-foot quiet athletic pitcher/2b, she attended a tryout of 35 players for a regional travel team. She was an unknown. Her only advantage being that she was playing up 1 age-group because the higher level (u12) needed pitchers. She played decently for her houseleague u12 team and now was ready for her first shot at travel ball at the age of 10. After 3 grueling tryouts, she survived, much to my surprise, to the final tryout. In my area, if you don't play u12 travel ball, its hard to get anywhere in softball. You're young enough at this point to get softball IN you through volume/repetition. You play 10x as much as the "B" teams. Its almost impossible to catch up. It an exponential skill improvement. At these tryouts, she had to compete with 35 players for 12 spots until suddenly, at the last tryout, 2 out-of-region players appeared and took away 2 of the spots. 10 spots? No chance fam.
3 days after the final tryout, the coach called her and told her he was taking her. We were in shock and so proud. For 2 years, her team dominated the province and would win many tournaments. She would go on to win the most underrated player in her 2nd year. The coach took 10 in-region players and she still made it. I still can't understand why he took her but maybe 7 years later, it is a bit more clear. A dad sees the flaws in 3-D.
This past week was the 2nd big crossroad. Since the 1st crossroad in 2015, MINI GOAT has excelled, moving from AA to AAA in 2017. AAA only starts at 2017. AAA is a province-wide program for the elite athletes of the province and is by birth year. MINI GOAT made the 2004 team in 2017 and since then has excelled for 3 years as starting 2b and leadoff hitter and consistenly batted > .300 with the ability to hit for power despite her small stature. She played excellent defense and had developing speed. In 2017 and 2018, both with new coaches who had never seen her, she started the year batting > 9th in the batting order and splitting time between OF and 2B. By the start of the season in May, she was leading off and playing 2B almost exclusively. That's what she does. You discard her and she laughs at you.
Fast-forward again to last week and MINI GOAT is at another crossroads as she moves from single-birth year AAA (u14,u15,u16) to the multi-year u18 which, in this particular scenario, includes 3 birth years. A special team to represent the province in the Canada games in 2021. Canadian softball may not be as strong as the US but that doesn't mean there are not strong programs and strong players. Its still a world-class softball country. And Quebec is among the best in Canada. BC and Ontario typically lead the way with Quebec, Alberta and Saskatchewan not far behind...but now Quebec is making a move.
The coach elected to go with a year-long tryout. He created a pool of 24 players and had several practices/games throughout the year. He included MINI GOAT in this 24-player group based on her performances with the AAA teams. He scouted the players with their teams and he brought the players to Florida for an intense camp with games vs Florida teams each night. He turned over every stone and knew every player inside out. After MINI GOAT's season with her u16 team ended in late August, the final 3 events of the year were tryout games with the 24 players remaining in the Canada Games pool. MINI GOAT went 0/11 with a few hard-hit balls but a few too many strikeouts. Before the 2nd game, the coach revealed he was taking 12-13 players instead of the anticipated 15 which left my daughter shaking with fear. She said she was shaking the entire game. She struck out twice and went 0/3 and that night, she broke down and cried and said to me in a definitive voice "I want this soooo bad" and she started to cry and as I tried to tell her that whatever happened was the right thing and then I went through her softball resume, she said none of it was helping. How is a GOAT to know how to console a MINI GOAT?
Fast-forward again to the 3rd and final game where MINI GOAT, batting leadoff for the 3rd straight game, goes 0/4 again and is intensely upset after the game. The stress in the house is immense. The team was supposed to be announced after the game. But it has been delayed due to the governing organization needing to approve the players selected. MINI GOAT, GOAT and MRS. GOAT would go through 10 more days of torment before a ZOOM night was set up with all the players and coaches where the coaches would be meeting each player individually and telling them their fate.
This crossroads would determine whether the ASCENSION through softball would continue. She wants to play College ball and it would be easier to get recruited on an elite team that has the chance to win Canadian Nationals and potentially the Canada Games. For the last 7 years, she has been on a steady rise and we have been strategically working on skills in the garage, the local field and we have been perpetually "going somewhere". Softball had tremendous meaning in our house. To fail now would be the end of the the ASCENSION and would make college recruitment and the continuation of this beautiful progression very difficult. It would take the air out of our sails and recovery would be difficult. It has/had been a magical run. For a small 5-4 115lb speedy little kinda-power hitting 16-year old teenage girl.
"Can we be behind your computer" we ask her, asking if we can listen in on the 7:45pm meeting. "NO. STAY DOWNSTAIRS" she instructs us. At 7:50pm we hear her door open. I hear her walking down the stairs and I am frozen, trying to judge the nature of the sounds of her on the stairs, determining her softball fate based on sounds. But my wife is quick out of the kitchen and she meets MINI GOAT halfway down the stairs and she asks "YES??" And then she screams. And then I get up because I know. That the MINI GOAT is heading to the Canada Games. And she will be on the field with the best players in the country. We worked so hard. She worked so hard. The daily workouts in the basement. The trips to the local park at lunch time to hit some balls, field some grounders. The lessons. The late night glove-work in the brightly lit garage set against the darkness of a country road. I know what it takes to be great now. I didn't know it when I was a kid. But now I know. Sacrifice. Repetition. Commitment. Attitude. Resilience. Fearlessnes. All of the 24 girls had these attributes of varying levels. This doesn't even include natural talent.
My daughter was told she made the team because of her speed and her ability to hit. Normally a 2b, the coach saw her being a valuable defensive outfielder as a bench player but with hard work, she could work herself into a starting role. She nodded and smiled and when I finished hugging her downstairs, I asked her how she felt about being told that after 3 years as a core player on her team, that she would have to fight her way, off the bench, up the depth chart of the best team in her province and I will never forget this moment. She said to me "Dad, this is what I do. I fight my way up depth charts. I got this."
And goddammit, that's one way to make a father cry.