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Helms: A father-daughter moment: Reflecting on a lesson learned in childhood

I was up next.

My 10-year-old frame, lanky and bursting with determination, waited in the wings. The breeze was typical of the warm summer evening, just enough to offset the beads of sweat forming on my brow.

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Whenever this moment had come in the past, I would find myself standing in the orange dust giving myself a pep talk between my ears.

Unexpectedly, I saw my dad rounding the half chain-link fence that separated the players from family and fans who were cheering from the bleachers.

“Ya wanna learn how to hit a home run?” he asked knowing I would go for it. “Spit on your hands.”

I must have given him a second look from under my golden yellow softball cap, my green eyes reminding him I was his daughter.

I obliged his request; trusting, not questioning.

“Now put your hands in the dirt and rub’em together,” he said.

I never hesitated.

Next, I felt his arms around me.

From behind, his hands tight around mine. Fingers curled together around the grip, he slowly moved his hands upward closer to the barrel; mine to follow like a shadow.

“Now hold the bat like this,” he said, showing me. “Choke up on it and then swing as hard as you can!”

My dad then disappeared into the stands as I heard the ump abruptly yell, “Batter up!”

The first pitch whizzed by me and the momentum of the bat struck air.

“Strike one!”

I looked back for reassurance in the stands. A wave of pride rode over me as I saw my dad on his feet in the crowd clapping and chanting, “You got this!” You got this!”

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Those words have echoed down the corridor of my life in so many ways. Since then, “You got this!” has sustained me through some hard times when I really needed to believe in myself.

“Strike two!”

My knees twisted and the thrust of the bat contorted my torso, but not my determined focus.

I looked back again, my dad still there never wavering; encouraging my desire to make him proud. I took my cue from him. My courage assumed a stance at the plate.

“You got this!”

In that moment, my 10-year-old voice sang in unison with my dad’s.

The solo crack of the bat and the crowd swelled to sing the chorus. There was my dad cheering me on as I rounded third and crossed home plate. I felt the world at my back and at the forefront, a dad who reached his arms around me to teach me.

This month, my dad turned 80 years old. I gratefully remember his words: spit on your hands, rub them in the dirt and choke up on the bat. That is how you hit a home run!

Thanks for the life lesson, dad!

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