Danielle plays softball. For those that are unaware, this is a very competitive sport that has some similarity to baseball. If anyone thinks that ball coming at you is “soft” though just ask my daughter how soft she thought it was after she took a direct hit on her shin the other night. These girls play hard, and the competition is often very fierce.
Our first game was at 6pm on Friday night. For the family of a player, that meant being there by 5pm. Grand Island is about 90 miles from Lincoln, so the drive would be relatively short. Assuming, of course, I didn’t manage to get us lost once we got there. I thought printing of directions would be a good idea, however my computer did not feel the same way. Instead of getting this document put together sooner, like I usually like to do, I opted to try to do it just as we were heading out the door. There was some sort of problem with our home network talking to the printer however. My wife, Kelli, saw that look in my eye as I hunkered over the computer furiously engaging some diagnostics to fix the problem. Her solution was far quicker, and simpler. She printed the directions off from her computer so we could get going. Grudgingly, I accepted the fact that this problem would have to wait for another day and shut off the computer. A road trip was calling, and softball was the game.
So we piled into the family van, all five of us. We were loaded with the gear, clothes, lotions, and sprays that would be needed to get through the weekend. In Nebraska, you need to prepare for everything on an outing like this. It could be a bug infested swamp, or it could be a blistering desert environment. Luckily our weekend would fall somewhere between these two extremes. The drive to Grand Island was pretty uneventful. Like so many longer trips, most of the van was quiet. The family usually falls asleep at some point, and this trip would be no exception. Danielle was wide awake on this journey though. I doubt it was anything like nerves keeping her awake. She’s just not like that. More likely, it was just the excitement of going someplace new, and getting to stay in a hotel.
We made good time to our destination, and decided to check in to our hotel before hitting the ball fields. Our team, the Lightning, were staying at the local Howard Johnson hotel. Let’s just say that it was a place to stay the night and leave it at that. I don’t know how others felt about it, but the place appears a bit past it’s prime. We were told that renovations were going on, but we didn’t see anything to show that. I found the beds quite hard (right down to the pillows). Like I said, it was good for the night anyway. After dropping off some of our cargo, we were off to the complex.
The games were played at a place called Ryder Park. It is a pretty nice facility with plenty of parking on all sides of the park so walks to the fields were not terribly long. That was nice since the fields were quite spread out over a large area that is overlooked by a gigantic hill the locals refer to as ‘tornado hill’. I guess this was the site of a huge landfill for the debris generated from the tornado outbreak in 1980. Now it is a popular sledding and bike hill.
The Lightning Girls were down and ready for their first game. They played hard, and won their first game. We had a little break between our first game and the second. In that time we would have a little barbecue across the street in the parking lot of a local business. Hot dogs, and chicken breasts were on the menu. I have to say that this team is lucky that one of the parents is a grill master of high order. The food was cooked to perfection, and our little tailgate party was a success.
Night fell upon our second game, and it would be played under the big lights. Our girls would play hard, like the first game. The game would run late into the night. The results were not as good however. We would lose, but even the umpires said that considering we were a first year team we played very well.
Back to the hotel we went. It was girls in one bed, and boys in the other. Since our family has a three girls to two boys ratio, I thought Preston and I made out like bandits. It would be an early morning so we went to bed right away. We figured on getting up by 7am to have time to enjoy our complementary breakfast. Apparently our four-year old son had other thoughts on the matter. He was playing with the clock, and apparently got the alarm turned on for 6am. That was a bit of a shocker to say the least.
We all went down and had breakfast, and after two cups of coffee, I was ready to go for day two. We would head out to the fields for day two. The Lightning would win their first game in a bit of a nail biter. The girls got out to a pretty decent lead, but a late rally by the opposition would have this game in doubt right down to the wire. Our girls stepped up though and would win this game.
After this game all the teams assembled on another field to get a giant picture of the event. It was a display to see these teams assembled on one field. This was lost on my two little one’s however, as they were far more interested in the giant people lifter extending high in the air to give the photographer the shot.
After lunch, the Lightning would play what turned out to be their last game in the double elimination tournament. I didn’t see too much of the game. Preston and Madison had been troopers throughout the rest of the event, and we thought they deserved some play time of their own. Ryder Park has some great play areas for the kids, and we took advantage of those during this game.
It was time for us to return home. The lightning had won two games in a tournament for the first time this season. There was not any disappointment showing on our faces. Everyone was excited to see how the girls will progress next season. The time came to pack up all of our stuff and head home. The van was abuzz with talk of games to come next season, and hopes and dreams about how they will do with the experience they have gained here.
Overall, I would say this was a great road trip all around.