I’ve spent a lot of time around baseball. And I mean a lot.

Many of you know my back story, but for those that don’t suffice it to say, for my first 21 years – baseball was life.

The rest was just details (Sorry. Had to.)

And so for my formative years, the coming of spring was less about warm weather and the dwindling school year and more about the smell of new baseballs and a fresh pack of sunflower seeds. It was about another opportunity to stuff the All-Star ballot box for Nomar Garciaparra and cover my walls with Sports Illustrated articles. It was about starting lineups and pitching rotations. It was about the game. It was all about the game.

There was something about being a part of a baseball team that defined who I was for a long time. I was almost always the only girl on my team (and please don’t read that to mean that I was a standout player – I was a solid utility player, at best), and wore that as a badge of honor on the field and off. Even at 8-years-old, I was there to prove a point. To prove that I was playing for more than just the participation trophy and the post-game snack. I was playing to show that girls can love baseball just as much as boys. Sure, many may have seen having a girl on the roaster as a weakness, but I made it my mission to show them that I was an asset, no matter what the capacity. I felt like if I could contribute one positive thing each game – a hit, a put out, a sacrifice bunt, then I would be earning my keep and proving I was worth my place on the roster.

Fast-forward 23 years and I’m back on the field as the only girl. But this time, I’m coaching my son’s T-ball team. Those same feelings of having something to prove are still present. For whatever reason, I assume that the other coaches won’t take me seriously or that the parents will think that I don’t know what I’m talking about. That the players (all boys) won’t want a woman for a coach or my son will wish that it was his dad at the helm.

Our first game was a total and complete cluster-you-know-what. Almost all my players were brand new to the game and we had far too many Bad News Bears moments to count. We struck out, we couldn’t run the bases and despite what I told everyone, we certainly did NOT tie. However – by the end of the game, the kids were all beaming. They were excited about being a part of a team and were eager for our practice the next day. They were beginning that same positive journey with baseball that I began so many years ago.

And I felt like that was more than enough for me to earn my keep.