Ramona Shelburne's Final Weekly Diary Entry
June 1, 2001
Geez, where do I start...
It's been a few days since I got back to campus and I've been trying to wait until everything was all clear in my head before I sat down to write this last diary entry. Should this be about the World Series? The end of my softball career? A retrospective on the season? A last chance to send some shout-outs to teammates? I can't leave anything unsaid or I'll regret it forever right?
For the last few days I've been waiting for the moment when I knew just what to write.
The truth is though, the fact that this is the last time I get a chance to ramble on to you all doesn't really mean that profundity will suddenly strike or that these last words hold particular symbolic significance. The last time is just another time you do something you've done in the past.
Kind of like your last game, or at-bat, or warm-ups, or throw. It can be symbolic if you want to see it that way, but really, that's putting too much pressure on yourself. Life isn't scripted like that.
All last week at the World Series I kept reminding myself of that. I knew that if I got too sentimental about every 'last' thing, I'd never really be able to enjoy myself or play the way I wanted to.
I made that mistake my last softball game in high school. It was the City Championship game and all I could do was think about how each little thing was the last time I'd do this or that. In the end, I think I came out something like 0-4 with 2 passed balls and a handful of regrets. We won, but it was no way to go out.
You want to finish on top, playing your best and with no regrets. It's going to be sad when the end comes but that sorrow is much more palatable if you leave with a good taste in your mouth.
That said, and trust me, I reminded myself of that about a million times last week, I can't think of a more amazing place to play your last college games than the World Series.
From the moment you step off the plane in Oklahoma City you know that what awaits you is special. Special because the whole city turns out to support the Series. But more so because you know at that moment there is absolutely no other place you would rather be, no other thing you'd want to be doing.
Earning a trip to the Series has been our goal every year since I've been here to the point that it's become some kind of Holy Land.
There are very few things in life that could live up to that kind of hype and this was one of them. The funny part is, I never really felt any pressure once we were there despite the magnitude of the stage. The pressure lies in getting there. Once you are at the Series you might as well have fun and win as many as you can. Our goal was to play our best and let the chips fall where they may. Coming home with the trophy would've been great but it wasn't what we were focused on the entire time. It was game to game, one win at a time.
I think that relaxed attitude was why we ended up doing so well. (In case you didn't know we took 3rd). Most players perform best when they are having fun, just engrossed in the moment and focused on whatever is immediately in front of them. 'Don't think, just play' I've been told half a billion times.
Yeah, we were all a little nervous. There was TV all over, a couple thousand fans in the stands, and of course, just the fact that you are at the World Series.
Even though the nerves were there, I can honestly say that there were at least 10 times each game where I would pause, look up in the stands or across the field at my teammates and just smile and let everything soak in. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can still put myself right back into those moments and experience the same emotions.
Really, those moments are what I'll miss most. It's what you play for. Just the chance of stepping onto the field in the World Series. Scoring the winning run, making a great defensive play, or running out to home plate greet a teammate who smacked a homerun.
I've often described sports as an addiction. Each of those moments is like a high and you live all subsequent moments just to get back to that place. You crave those moments, those concentrated doses of glory and joy. Each and every one stays with you forever but in the same breath is fleeting because you're thinking about how to get the next moment almost before the last one is over.
I'll always be an athlete, but it'll never be the same level of intensity of competition as college softball. I'm never going to have any more moments like that on the playing field. The good part is that the memories will always be there. Which is why, while you have the opportunity you have to play everyday like it's your last, like it's the World Series. I always tried to. Sometimes successfully, sometimes not. But it's easier to walk away now without regrets.
As for my 13 teammates who are lucky enough to come back next year for another shot at the Series, I can only say that once you've been to the Promised Land, you'll do anything to get back. There's no greater high, no greater stage, or level of competition than the World Series.
It won't be as special as the first time where every detail of the experience gets encoded into memory with wide-eyed enthusiasm. Nor will there be as many people on the team who have gone most of their careers with disappointing ends to the season in Regionals and the perspective that lends.
But it will still be amazing. Still something that you'd work every day for between today and the start of the next World Series.
That's what college softball is all about. Waking up every day with a purpose, a goal, a dream. Living for those transcendent moments like when Sarah Beeson hit a homerun against LSU to put us up 1-0. Or when Jess Mendoza robbed a homerun, or made a diving catch in the outfield against Cal to save the game. Those few seconds where I saw Dozer's hit fall into the outfield as I raced around second and scored the winning run again LSU are encoded into my brain forever now and frequently replayed.
Beyond the field, I there's more I'm going to miss. Listening Lindsey Stice freestyle to 'Take it to the House'on the bus ride over to the game, or cheering for 'Air' Barnum as she dives across the field attempting to catch a ball 10 feet over her head in batting practice.
I'll miss the coaches. Coach Rittman, Coacha, and Coach Picks are some of the most amazing people I've had the privilege of working with in my entire life. People who have challenged me, pushed me everyday to play to my potential. It's not often that you find people willing to pour every shred of their energy into helping others succeed and enjoy the game. In a way, coaching is one of the most selfless jobs you can take if you do it right, those three do.
I'll miss looking up in the stands and seeing my parents cheering as loud as they have since I was 4 years old in T-ball on every pitch. Looking up and knowing that no matter how you do, they still support you and think you're the greatest.
There's so much more I'm going to miss but I'm going to have to keep that to myself. The little memories, good and bad that run through my head of the last four years here, really, since the first time I picked up a ball.
Finishing your career as a competitive athlete is like seeing a part of your identity die. Not your whole identity, but a part of me will always be left on that field back in Oklahoma.
I don't see it as cause for mourning though. Saying that you'll miss a lot of things means that you have occasion to be thankful for the opportunity to have had such awesome experiences. But it's also occasion to hope for different, but equally amazing ones in the future.
Every day has a season, so the lyrics in that old Byrds' song go.
And what a season it was.
PS: For of you who've read this little diary this year, I just wanted to say thanks. So often during the season writing this diary kept me focused or brought me back to a positive mindset when times were tough. Plus, the feedback I've gotten from a lot of you has been so kind and supportive. As you can tell, I like to write so I applaud you if you've made it this far down my marathon last entry. Thanks again for reading and supporting us this year.