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My Valentine

Can you hear me when I sing
You’re the reason I sing
You’re the reason why the opera is in me
-U2, Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own

Words from the heart are especially powerful. As the announcement of my BP journey has reached many of you, you have replied with kind words of encouragement. One email’s opening line was, “I’m so proud of you I
could burst!” While a text simply stated, “You truly are my hero.” One funny
tweeter asked, “Do you ever stop throwing.” And another declared, “You so
rock!” I am so humbled by your support. Your heartfelt words mean so much to
me.

Last Thursday, I threw to UMASS Amherst’s baseball team. This was particularly cool for me because Julie Croteau, the first woman to coach college baseball, once served as an assistant coach at UMASS. She worked for Head Coach Mike Stone; the same man I was now throwing BP for. I am the second woman to coach at the college level (Assistant Coach, Springfield College (2007-10). So throwing BP at UMASS is another experience Croteau and I were to share.

Despite this historical connection,I was not feeling any ‘warm fuzzies’ from Coach Stone. I don’t think he thought I was I going to do a good job. Maybe Coach Stone was thinking about the time Croteau threw BP to UMASS. She broke her arm when a line drive hit her. Because Coach Stone’s final words to me before entering the cage were, “Make sure you get behind the screen. Julie didn’t and she broke her arm.”  I smiled back and replied, “I’m not worried.” But as I stepped into that cage, I was worried. Not about being hit but whether or not Coach Stone would ever like me.

I was throwing well to UMASS – hard and strikes. But every time I would see Coach Stone stop and look my way, I threw a ball. Boy, he made me nervous. I knew I needed a mental shift. I checked my heart rate. It was pounding. I changed the song in my head from U2′s “Walk On” to their love ballad, “Sometimes You Can’t Make it on Your Own.” My breath and pace came
under my control. Next time Coach Stone looked at me, I still threw a ball. But
instead of feeling panic, I smiled. And it kind of became an inside joke with
me. Stone appeared and so did a ball. But I was determined to change that. So I
continued to sing to myself and kept on smiling. Soon the nerves left and I
threw strikes for Coach Stone. At the end of the batting session, a once stoic
Coach Stone, smiled at me, told me I did well, and invited me to come back and
throw again to his team. “Anytime,” he offered.

It’s amazing the impact words can have on us. Coach Stone’s “anytime” offer to throw BP, gave me a grounded sense of confidence for my outing with the Indians. Like the kind words that many of you have sent me. Their impact is truly incredible. Your good wishes and belief in me make my heart swell. And just as you have given me your heart, I give you mine. Happy Valentine’s Day.

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