The Joy On People's Faces

By Bailey Hemphill

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When it comes down to it, softball is just a game. If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. It’s that simple.

It’s like I’m almost channeling my inner child when I play softball. Pure joy!

And I believe approaching the sport this way is something that directly relates to my professional ambitions as well.

But, let’s talk softball first…

Early Potential

When I was 10 years old, my parents began to notice that I could hit the ball farther than most of the other girls on my softball team. 

Obviously, I wasn’t hitting anything out of the park yet, but even at that young age, my parents saw potential.

As a result, my dad started working with me to improve and develop my swing. And once I hit my first home run, all I could think of was: 

Wow, this really works. My dad was right.”

All In

Softball is a very technical sport, and fixing my swing was instrumental to my growth.

But what was even more fascinating to me about it was that it’s both a team and an individual sport. There has always been something special about the competitive “you versus the pitcher” aspect.

Oh, and obviously getting to play with your best friends was the biggest treat of all.

So, at that point, I did the only reasonable thing – I decided to go all in.

One of the first things I shifted my attention to was bettering my swing even further. And when you go all in, you make some sacrifices. Mine came in the form of working with a hitting instructor in Colorado. Yep, Colorado. That’s a solid drive from Louisiana, I can tell you that.

My parents and I dedicated a lot of time into softball, but we all genuinely felt like it was the best thing to do.

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You see, my dream has always been to go to Alabama—ever since I was in eighth grade and watched them play. The entire team just seemed to have so much fun out there, and I always wanted to be a part of it.

A Dream Come True

When I was in high school, Coach Murphy came to one of my games.

And honestly, it didn’t go well. I struck out a few times and was certain I just blew my shot. I was really disappointed.

But, to my surprise, my travel ball coach came up to me after the game and said, “He really liked what he saw.”

I was baffled.

Apparently, he was looking beyond what I just showed on the field that day.

I can’t put into words how much his comments meant to me.

You see, my dream has always been to go to Alabama—ever since I was in eighth grade and watched them play. The entire team just seemed to have so much fun out there, and I always wanted to be a part of it.

Exceeding Expectations

And as expected, it really is that much fun.

Especially last year was a memorable one. For both myself and the team.

Before the season, we were projected to finish 8th in the SEC. And boy, were they wrong. We played some incredible softball and ended up finishing first in the conference, and qualified for the Women’s College World Series.

In the WCWS, one game in particular in our series against the Florida Gators will stick with me forever.

One swing, actually.

One swing that would beat both Alabama’s home run and RBI single-season school record.

To be honest with you, I had no clue about these records. But thinking back, this was a very special moment that I’ll definitely remember for the rest of my life.

Life Outside Of Softball

The joy on people’s faces after moments like this is what truly stands out and sticks with me.

But you see, as I mentioned at the very beginning of this story, it all comes down to my inner child.

Just like children that can light up a room with their smile and joy, it’s the exact same joy on my and my teammates’ faces that makes for these truly unforgettable moments.

That’s what it’s all about.

Now, earlier on, I talked about how this directly relates to my professional ambitions.

After you read my past few sentences, it may not come as a surprise that I want to work with children.

For a lot of the same reasons actually. Seeing kids smile and be joyful is one of the most rewarding feelings in the world.

So, that’s what I’m going to school for.

This past semester was tricky as I was technically on a teacher’s schedule and “worked” with preschoolers. The problem was that this schedule interfered with most practice times. So, I wasn’t around my teammates and softball as much as I wanted.

But, again, playing and laughing with these young boys and girls was a fantastic substitute.

One week, for example, the children had to build a boat. We had different sink and float activities to help them figure out what materials worked best. Other than controlling the hot glue gun, I was just a bystander for this project. They ended up building a boat with popsicle sticks and Styrofoam.

When they saw their boat float in water, it was an unbelievable moment. They all started jumping and screaming and were just so happy to see their hard work paying off.

Again, nothing is more rewarding than experiencing moments like these.

Looking To The Future

After I graduate, I’m going to apply to occupational therapy school. That’s my No. 1 goal. I really want to help people get back to the lives they were living before they experienced injury. With OT, I also have the option of going into pediatrics, which would be the best of both worlds.

If I don’t get in, I’d like to become a preschool teacher. During my last semester, I found that when I work with kids, I get to be a kid again. We get to go outside, run around, and play sports. And I love that.

Either route I end up taking, I know I’ll find happiness in what I do.

Why? Because I know I’ll get to see the joy on people’s faces.

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