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Out with a Bang

By Reed Saunders

It’s an interesting feeling, knowing you’re about to die.

Always thought my first such feelings might surface when a car swerved from the other lane, not racing across a swampy Houston outfield, tearing down banners in the middle of an electrical storm.

Just goes to show, one can’t plan these things. One minute you’re a happy intern two days away from flying home. The next, you’re a 6-foot-5 lightning rod running next to metal fencing while holding scissors in soaking wet grass and running for your life.

In every life, some banners must be torn down. And in every summer All-Star tour, an occasional lightning armada must settle directly over your head.

We were supposed to finish out our summer exhibition season that cloudy Friday evening in Pasadena, Texas. The third and final game between the NPF All-Stars and the Texas College Stars was on our schedule. Too bad someone up above had different plans.

Instead of huddling outside the dugout before taking the field, our team was huddled together in the press box, taking cover from a late-evening monsoon that swooped in from the north.

Instead of cheering from their bleacher seats, fans screamed and ran for cover in the parking lot; great seats for a softball game were now slightly lower on the priority scale than a 30,000-volt charge to the skull.

The game was officially done, as was our summer season. In a blacked-out press box, the emotions were anything but.

There was a silent sadness and disappointment; this was to be our last contest as a team, but we never really got to enjoy it from a competitive standpoint. The calendar was reversed and our last game was really the night before.

There was laughing, some of it from fright but most of it from relief – a break from the ordinary routine of our previous exhibition games. We joked, we took pictures, we wondered what was for dinner. We were all still teammates, even though there was no game to be played.

In some strange way, it was all very fitting; Natural, in a way, that the season went out on such an unexpected note. Nothing much about this summer, after all, went according to plan.

In late May, 13 players, two coaches, three interns, one equipment manager and one athletic trainer boarded separate planes from across the nation and flew to Sacramento. Their mission: sell a product that didn’t yet exist.

We came to Major League Baseball games and won over fans, hundreds flocking to our table. Maybe flocking isn’t the right word. But they were there and they were intrigued.

We played to crowds of near 2,000 people, screaming, chanting, clapping – overall enthralled with the fastpitch experience like I’d never thought possible.

We packed and unpacked enough baggage to make the folks at Samsonite happy, our rental cars weren’t there, the directions were wrong, the airlines charged us an arm and a leg to carry on our ball-bags.

Yet there we were, standing together in that Pasadena press box and laughing like kids running from the rain. We didn’t say much about it, but our smiles said it all: the speed bumps along that summer highway only made this finishing point that much smoother of a ride.

The 13 players, two coaches, three interns, one athletic trainer and one equipment manager that arrived in Sacramento stood wet and tired in Houston – with the lightning crashing all around us -- as one team.

No sir, didn’t think it would ever happen quite that way. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Reed Saunders is a 2003 graduate of Colorado State University.