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Fifteen Magnificent Mounties

(I’m sorry for this column’s personal references. I’m sending this open letter to the fifteen players on this year’s South Williamsport High School softball team.)

Dear Alizabeth, Lily, Abby, Gianna, Kendall, Sage, Emily, Emma, Mikiaya, Maddie, Alyssa, Allison, Lilliana, Jewelanna & Carly:

I know all of you are way past the stage in your lives where the teachers will be asking you to write what you did on your summer vacation when you return to school in the fall, so instead, I just wanted to send along this note to thank you for all the special memories you have provided me along our shared softball trail this spring.

While we sat on the steps outside Penn State’s softball field before the state championship game, Mikiaya remarked with excitement, “This feels like Christmas morning.” Indeed, it was for all of us, and coincidentally, as we look back upon this incredible journey, it was the day after Christmas that we gathered in the weight room to get ready for what was to come.

Due to my basketball coaching duties, I missed many of those winter sessions when laughter was interspersed with the grunts and groans of those weighted obstacles you were moving around. However, as the season progressed, I have fond memories of those 38 home runs clearing the fences and the smiles on our faces when coach Adam placed the home run chain around your necks. That weightroom must have helped!

As you know, I am a big country music fan, although not much of a dancer. There were times when team-DJ Lily’s music boom box had me tapping my feet which somehow led to a few impromptu moves in the dugout before one of our playoff games. Hopefully, none of your always active phone cameras caught any of that ‘action.’

Your politeness was contagious, and as Coach Tom has said many times, “Thank you for thanking me.” Don’t know if it may have crossed your mind, but Coach Chris could use a professional right arm massage to recover from the thousands of pitches served up during batting practice sessions. It didn’t matter how many swings you took, but all of you wanted “one more pitch” before you left the batter’s box.

Practice sessions always started on time. Obviously, you were all aware of the team rule: ” If you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time, you’re late!”

Many sports teams have cheerleaders. We didn’t need them. We had Kendall. Her positive messages were there to encourage all. Even when she didn’t perform well (which wasn’t often), she was right there enthusiastically supporting her teammates. When in the dugout, it was best to try not to be downwind to Kendall’s cheering when the game was in progress.

The bus trips were lively. I’ve always been aware of the old adage about people singing in the shower. With this group, they must have saved all their ‘singing talents’ in line with Willie Nelson’s On the Road Again song. A saving grace was that the school’s choral director, Mrs. Rummings, was not along for the rides. If so, some may not have been selected for the school’s choir.

I’ve had the opportunity to coach baseball and basketball teams for several decades, but accepting coach O’Malley’s invitation to join the softball staff was my first involvement in coaching young ladies. What an enjoyable time I’ve had over the past five years. While you had known the other coaches previously, you welcomed this ‘rookie’ with open arms, for which I thank you.

Not everyone can win a championship, but it doesn’t take a trophy or medal to act like a champion. You all have done that with class. After the state championship loss, you proudly stood on the third base line, accepting a reward you did not want with smiles on your faces and pride in your heart, knowing that you gave this game and this season the very best effort you could muster.

I noticed. The fans noticed. The gathered media took notice and carried that moment to the recipients of their reports. In sports, there is ‘always next year.’ What next year will bring is unknown. But what is known is that as your high school years turn into adulthood, what you will most remember is not the runner-up finish of that June 14 game but rather what we all accomplished together.

Medals can tarnish. The memories of our 2024 softball season will not!

Have a great summer, and let’s complete the drive in 2025!
~ Coach Lowery