The great Vince Lombardi once said, “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up. Well, our team suffered defeat; and we were either going to feel sorry for ourselves, or we were going to man up and get back up. Our team, as well as me, learned a lot about ourselves that day that have stuck with us. In 2008, our baseball team, the Bayou Bombers, set foot on a mission. Our group of thirteen boys and four coaches traveled to Cooperstown, New York, to play in a baseball tournament of one hundred teams.
Our team was the only Louisiana team playing in this tournament; however, we were the clear favorite to win it because of our talented players. Tournament announcers said things like, “This team should have no problem winning the tournament and “This team is stacked with talent. As a twelve-year-old adolescent, these words intimidated me. I felt like there was a huge knot in my stomach and was going to throw up. These words filled me with nervousness and pressure that I never thought of until our coach told us what the announcers were saying about our talented team.
Then, our coach told us that we should block out all the distractions and play the same game that we have played our whole lives. The words “just have fun from our coach lightened up the mood of the team and eased our minds, and we were ready to destroy any team that walked in our way of the championship. August 1st, 2008, finally came around; and the Bayou Bombers boarded the plane for a direct flight to Cooperstown, New York. As we departed the plane, all of our families waited for us to wish us the best of luck in the tournament.
This also lightened the mood up for some of us because our parents told us that no matter what happens out there, they were still going to be proud of us. As a young twelve-year-old, those words encouraged me to just play and have fun out there, no matter the outcome. After we left the airport, we finally arrived to our room where the whole team stayed. The room reeked of wet, dirty socks, while the smell of mildew lingered throughout the bathroom. However, it did not matter because our team knew we were here to win and not for vacation. We settled in, unpacked all our belongings, and prepared to go to sleep.
We knew that it was going to be a long week. The night passed, and I can clearly remember the 7:00 a. m. sirens going off. The loud, piercing sound just about woke up the entire city of New York. After the two minutes of obnoxious sirens, our team got dressed in the bright, red Cooperstown shirt that the host handed out to us. Finally, it was game time, and we were about to face our first opponent. We arrived to the damp, fog-filled field anxious to face our opponent. The field was a marvelous sight but did not compare to the Championship Field.
Each field contained a dark green, fifteen-foot wall that contrasted well with the bright green grass. The light brown dirt was spread even throughout the infield, while the white, chalky lines separated fair and foul play. The smell of cut grass and buttery popcorn covered the field. It was also very humid; droplets of water covered the bodies of all the players. Being the number one seed in the tournament, we faced the number one hundred seed, which was West Michigan Elite. We defeated them 17-2 while defeating the next four opponents as well.
We were all so pleased with the way we had been playing. However, things took a turn for the worst. During the final day of regular play, our team went into the game thinking that we were going to breeze by without any problems. Why wouldn’t we think that? We just about destroyed every other team that we faced. However, we suffered our first loss, which dropped our seeding down. Not only did this affect us physically but also mentally. Physically, it hurt our seeding which meant that the path to the championship was going to be a lot tougher.
On the other hand, our team was devastated. We had not lost a game all tournament, and we finally lost on the last regular game. We were crushed, saddened, distraught, etc. It was not until that night in which our coach delivered a message to us that changed our mindsets. The team and coaches gathered inside our small, dreary room. He delivered us the Vince Lombardi quote in a passionate way. He stared at each individual in that room with his big, dark brown eyes to make sure that we understood what he was saying.
As he was delivering the message to get back up and fight through the troubles, tears, like those of gushing waterfalls, streamed down his cheeks. Our team had never seen our coach cry before, and we knew that we had to have a short memory and forget about the loss. After a few moments, he then said, “Guys, play for your teammates. Play for each other and not for the number on your back. Do it for each other. But most importantly, just have fun out there and play your hearts out. It will all work itself out in the end.
After hearing this, my body trembled with the chills as goose-bumps covered my body from head to toe. A strange, burning passion filled me, almost as if my insides were on fire. I, as well as my teammates, was ready again for any team who strayed in our path. We refused to lose and even came up with a saying that we started to say before every game. Before we sprinted onto the field, one person would say, “Can’t be beat while the rest of the team followed with “Won’t be beat. It was settled; we were not going to lose another game from then on.
Playoffs started, and there was not a team more ready and prepared than we were. We were like angry lions that wanted revenge, and we were not going to stop ripping away until it was all over. Our once attitudes of crush and defeat were vanished. Instead, we developed a “never give up and “fight til’ the end attitude. We cruised by every game that we played in, and we were finally in the championship game. We knew what had to be done, and we were going to finish our business. On August 7, 2008, history was made for the Bayou Bombers.
Upon arriving at the championship field, also known as The Dream Field, we were completely shocked and amazed with the features. The moment was so surreal. I can remember standing on the white, chalky foul line staring out at the thousands of fans surrounding the stadium. The bright lights gleamed on the freshly cut, green grass. Mountains surrounded the outer edges of the stadium. As we stood on the foul line for the National Anthem, three jets darted across the field. Shortly after, red, white, and blue fireworks exploded into the background of the mountains.
A light drizzle sprinkled over the stadium, which made the grass glisten even more. Chills permeated through my body causing every single hair on my body to stick up. The moment was so picture perfect that it was almost like it was written for a script in a movie. I was in a daze that I never wanted to wake up from. It was truly a memorable feeling. Once I snapped out of the daze, it was time to play ball. The opponents on the other side of the foul line, the Katy Patriots from Texas, did not know what was coming at them. Wasting no time in the first inning, one of our players belted a two-run homerun to take the lead.
Two innings later, the same player once again ripped another two-run homerun to make the score 4-0. In the bottom of the sixth inning with two outs and one last Katy Patriot batter up at the plate, our pitcher threw him a diving curveball that missed his bat, thus, ending the game. The crowd erupted with clapping, shouting, and even tears from our parents. I threw my glove as high as I could and sprinted to dog-pile on the pitcher’s mound. The rest of the players sprinted towards the dog-pile and leaped on top of each other.
Although we almost killed each other by not being able to breathe in the dog-pile, we were ecstatic nonetheless and proud of ourselves. Our team lined up once again on the white, chalky foul line to receive our trophies and congratulations. Right before our team departed the field to go back to our room, I stared at the field once more for the last time. I can still imagine the light drizzle coming down across the scoreboard that read 4-0. I just stood there and took a moment. It finally hit me that we won it all and that we fought and battled through the adversity of ourselves and of others.
This experience has taught me a lot about myself as an individual. I have learned, with the help of my teammates and coaches, that every human being is going to be knocked down or fail at one moment in their life. Success is about failing and getting back up and fighting harder. Every time an individual is knocked down, he has to work ten times harder to get back up; and that is where success happens. Ralph Waldo Emerson says it perfectly when he says that, “Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.