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    A League of Her Own

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    "Coaches," the umpire calls, and our team begins to circle up as our head coach Kate Drohan heads to home plate to exchange the lineup cards.

    "Here we go 'Cats."

    "Let's do this, purple team."

    "We win the first inning, Purp."

    The familiar pre-game chatter starts up as we wait for the lineups to be exchanged. It's 9 a.m on a sunny Friday morning, our first game against UC Davis at San Diego State University.

    "Oh hey two-four," an unfamiliar voice murmurs from the stands, and everyone in our circle turns around, searching for the fan who has just called out our shortstop, Emily Allard.

    Standing there, with the sun reflecting off a grin as wide as his cheeks would stretch, is Emily's father, Bill. A truck driver who can only come home and see his family about once or twice a month, it's the first time in her career that he's been in the stands to watch her play in a Northwestern uniform, and it's a complete and utter surprise to her.

    Emily's hand flies up to her mouth as tears begin rolling down her cheeks. She turns back to the circle and bends over -- hands on her knees -- overcome with emotion. I try to peer through the tears in my eyes and catch 17 of our teammates in the same state -- wiping away their own tears or resting their hands over their hearts.

    "When I turned around and I saw his 'stunner shade' sunglasses and his hair that hadn't been cut in four weeks because he never has time to get a haircut, my heart sunk and my face lit up. The only thing I could think to do was cry and smile, and all I wanted to do was give him a hug but I knew I had to play the game first," reminisced Emily.

    And play the game she did. That day, Emily went 5-for-5 and broke a Northwestern softball record with five hits in a single game, all in front of the man who left his truck in Los Angeles to watch his daughter for the weekend.

    "I didn't even know I broke the record until after the game," said Emily. "I just wanted -- since it was the first time he'd ever seen me play -- I just wanted to make him proud. I wanted to get a hit for my dad. I didn't know I was going to get five!"

    Those five hits were for the man who used to wake up at 5:30 a.m. on the weekends to take her to tournaments, the same man who caught Emily in the backyard for the duration of a ten-year pitching career. A father who promised ice cream after a home run and jokingly threatened to tie bacon in front of Emily's helmet to make his daughter run faster.

    "I think the greatest thing that made our relationship so strong throughout my career was the fact that he wasn't a yeller. It was never, 'you weren't good enough' or 'you need to do better.' It was always just no matter the outcome, after the game his arms would be open for me to come into, good or bad, home run or 0-for-4," said Emily.

    I've experienced first-hand the relationship between Emily and her dad, and I've never seen a father and daughter more alike. Theirs is a relationship of trust, respect and love, and there's no question where Emily got her sense of humor. Although they only get to see each other a few times a year, it's like they've never spent a day apart.

    For a year and a half, I've watched my friend's face light up whenever she receives a text from her dad. I've listened to her giggle uncontrollably when they're on the phone together. And on the slight chance that Bill happens to be driving through the Midwest, I've seen every attempt to be made for a last-minute rendezvous, even if only for 30 precious minutes.

    But none of those moments compare to that Friday morning in San Diego. On a morning when, much to the chagrin of Jimmy Dugan, there was crying in softball.

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    2 Comments

    What a great story!

    , oh....sharkey, great writing, great story for Em, love you both, and that all brought tears to my eyes, wish I had seen that moment to share in Em too as myheart went out to her as well with joy thather dad was there for her. Keep up the great blogging Sharkey..

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