Brooke was eight-years-old the first time a coach yelled at her.
She missed the base while rounding third, scored what she thought would be the tying run for the 10u State Championship, only to have the umpire call her out on an appeal.
Roger Thornton was always more of a dad than a coach. His daughter Paisley pitched. He wanted her to be the star pitcher – so, he volunteered for the job.
Roger saw Brooke miss the bag but hoped like hell that everyone else didn’t. When the umpire made the call, ending the game in favor of the other team, Roger spun on his heels and threw his hands to the heavens.
Then, as he marched toward Brooke, who stood with slumped shoulders near the plate. Roger started barking, “You missed the bag, Brooke. All you had to do was step on the damn base! Good Lord, how could you be so…” Roger Thornton stabbed at the air with a finger and said, “You let everyone down – nobody lost this game for us but you.”
He made such a show with his voice, everyone in the park knew how he felt about the mishap. Sadly, many of the parents on the team shared his anger and expressed as much while huddled together in tight circles, as they consoled their crying daughters.
For Brooke, her parents didn’t make the game. Her older sister had brought her and spent the first six innings plugged into her phone on the shady side of the concession stand. As luck would have it, she did catch Brooke’s base-running mistake - a point she reminded her kid sister about the entire way home.
Back at home, Brooke’s sister burst into the house, laughing and announcing to her parents, “Guess who lost the game for the team? If she doesn't miss the bag, her team would've won!”
Brooke’s father didn’t say a word, but the disgusted look on his face and the way he shook his head told Brooke all she needed to know about how he felt.
Brooke’s mother asked, “How could you? Did you really miss the base? Your poor teammates must be devastated.”
The sister chimed in, “Oh yeah, I saw it. She missed it by a mile. It’s like she didn’t even see it. And yeah, pretty much everyone hates her.”
Brooke sunk lower and dragged herself to her bedroom, closed the door behind, and cried with shame.
Ten years later…
“What do you think of #10,” asked the young assistant.
Brad Moss looked at the roster in his hand and glanced back to the field. “Maybe.”
The young assistant said, “She’s slick in the field – I haven’t seen anything that tells me she couldn’t play at our level.”
Moss said, “She doesn’t seem like she’s having any fun, though – that always concerns me. I’m a coach, not a cheerleader, so when I’m recruiting, poor body language is a red flag.”
“Okay, what about #7, on the blue team?”
“Now you’re talking. I have her name circled here,” he showed the proof, “I like the way she smiles and bounces around.”
“Says here she’s a senior. Want to talk to her after the game?”
“Let’s visit with her coach first.”
After the game, Coach Moss spoke with the club coach behind the blue team’s dugout.
“What can you tell me about your #7?”
The club coach manufactured a smile and motioned them away from the dugout.
The coach started with an eager voice, “She’s a headcase.”
Moss said, “Really? I got a different impression.”
“Don’t be fooled. The kid’s had a rough life. Divorced parents, older sibling suicide, she’s been in and out of trouble with booze, bad grades, and if there’s drama on our team, she’s usually the source. I should’ve cut her long ago.”
The coach cleared his throat and said with a softer tone, “Now, we do have some kids on our team that could probably play for you – our best is a pitcher, she’ll be throwing the next game.”
“Okay, thanks for the heads up, coach. I’ll scratch #7 off my list and we’ll stick around to see your pitcher throw,” Moss said.
He turned to his young assistant and said, “And that’s why we do our homework.”
The assistant twisted her mouth in response, which led Moss to ask, “What is it, Bridgette?”
“Something doesn’t add up,” she said.
“What's not to believe? I’ve seen it dozens of times. Kid has issues but uses a fake persona on the field. No thanks.”
“You think the coach was being honest?”
“Why wouldn’t he be?”