There aren’t too many places I’d rather be than inside a dugout during a baseball game.
I’d forgotten just how much I love the inside of a dugout until recently when the Union County baseball team welcomed me into theirs. As the players warmed to me, I warmed to the idea that I could be a Jackets fan. See, having been raised a Red Devil from Lockhart, and having no children of my own attending Union County High, I really didn’t have any connection to the school.
As I began covering the sporting events when I took the job almost a year ago, I became familiar with some of the athletes and the coaches. As the year wore on, I became increasingly aware that mine is not just a job. It never has been, because I love sports so deeply that being on the sidelines of ANY game is a privilege to me, not work.
However, it wasn’t until I watched the baseball team leave Fort Mill without an Upperstate Title that I realized just how invested I’d become in these kids and seeing them succeed. It was painful to watch them come off the field for the last time as a team.
As I followed the Hughes family from Fort Mill back to 49, I had a lot of time to think. I thought about my own family and how proud I am to be a part of it. I thought about the baseball team and I realized that I had become a part of that family too.
That was why I had gotten so heated about some of the calls during the game and why I’d had to stop myself from running out onto the field with the rest of the dugout when Recus and Dylan made a sweet relay to Cal at home plate for a double play to end a Fort Mill rally.
It was why, as I recounted the game to my husband on the phone, I had tears in my eyes.
I had become invested…whether I wanted to or not. It would be much easier, I’m sure, not to be. It would be easier to listen to Bo on the radio and use submitted photos, to not make the long drives and get home late, but the TEAM expected me to show up. I had become a fixture in the dugout and I had to be there for “my boys.”
The thing about dugouts is that everyone in them is a part of that particular team.
And so it was. I had become a member of the team.
Once, I was standing outside the dugout taking pictures and one of the guys asked me why I was out there instead of in the dugout with them. I think my heart swelled up about three times its normal size.
Dugouts…there’s just something about them.
So, to the Union County baseball team, I’d just like to say thank you. Thank you for making a Lockhart girl feel like a part of your team. I will never forget the kids who welcomed me in and helped me remember why a dugout is such a special place. To the seniors — I will miss you all and am truly proud of you.
To the rest of the team — I’ll see you next year…in the dugout.