In honor of TJ Sommers, I wore my softball jersey to college. I miss this young man as he has inspired me in countless ways.
June 18, 2009 seemed like just another day- another day of softball for the Bethany team. The excitement and intense energy of each player consumed the field as the game began. At the crack of a bat, in center field, TJ Sommers ran as hard as he could and dove for a fly ball that was coming towards him when he collided with another player. To this day we don’t know exactly what he hit; the freak accident violently fractured his skull in three places as he lost consciousness.
“TJ was severely injured today and was rushed to the emergency room; his brain is rapidly swelling and his skull fractured. I need to go see him”, were the words my dad told me on June 18, 2009. TJ and my dad were teammates for many years; I grew up watching him play. Watching TJ play was beyond exciting as he gave absolutely everything he had for his one love- softball. Every game he played with such aggressiveness and passion; one thing about TJ is that he always gave more than his best in every game with no exceptions. I watched in admiration as he stole bases and dove effortlessly across the dirt; a part of me wanted to do the same- to feel the wind in my hair as I run and the adrenaline pumping as my body hits the ground after diving head first. The adrenaline rush seems to last forever and keeps me in the “zone”; fear is absent and nonexistent as soon as the game starts. The memories I have of watching him play will exist forever in my mind; he inspired me, even as a little girl, to compete with aggressiveness and to give all of myself for the team; he showed me that one person can make a difference. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)
In the hospital, after two days of constant tests and life support, TJ left his loving and sorrowful family on Earth to enter into the arms of his Creator; I believe he left this world and entered into Heaven giving his all without holding anything back as he dove into Heaven. He literally gave all he had for his Maker and his example inspires others, at least me, to be the best that I can be; with God my best is far greater than 100%!! After his death, according to his will, his organs were removed to be distributed to those who were desperate; he gave hope to the hopeless as parts of TJ are living in other humans today and keeping them alive as he shared with them the gift of life. He no longer needed his organs since he would receive a brand new body in Heaven; so why let his organs go to waste? For as long as I knew TJ, the word that best described him was selfless; he was the image of God Himself and I thank God every day for His presence which is made so real through other people. I still miss TJ and at times am brought to my knees in surrender after shedding many tears of questioning “why”, penetrating to my heart. Every time I step foot onto the softball field I see the relentless competitor TJ was and am inspired.
“Three strikes, you’re out” are the most dreaded words in softball. The reason I know this is because I grew up around softball; my dad competed in softball leagues ever since I can remember and we traveled to softball tournaments to watch his team compete for the trophy; I remember sitting in the bleachers watching the competitiveness of each game and intensity of each moment. My twin sister and I were my dad’s personal cheerleaders; every time the ball came near him we screamed and shouted- the excitement radiating throughout the field! My dad was my hero- the person I admired and longed to be like. What I loved most about him was the energy he brought to each game by giving ALL he had; no matter if the game looked hopeless he continued to do anything he could to turn the game around. Something else I learned was to not be afraid to get “down and dirty”; if you’re not dirty you’re not really playing!! This quote personifies exactly what I mean: “A softball player is a girl who, once steps onto the field, is transformed from ‘daddy’s-little-girl’ into a fierce, unrelenting competitor who will stop at nothing to win a game; characteristically with dirt all across her face, ratted sweaty hair, bloody knees, and dirt stained socks and uniform.” Now, I know my mom was not fond of this idea since she had to wash the clothes; it was quite a chore to try and get those stained, torn, and muddy clothes clean! Watching each game inspired me to always give my all- my utmost best in every situation no matter what the cost.
To me, there’s nothing quite like the atmosphere of a softball tournament: sunshine and dirt, blood and sweat, uniforms and cleats, friendship and rivalry, adrenaline and intensity, and of course, diving! The feeling which overcomes my body when I enter this place is beyond description and gives me a confidence I never knew I had. I witnessed true teamwork which is a rare yet beautiful thing; softball is like the human body in that it takes all of the parts to work together in order to make a successful team. Homeostasis requires all body parts to be healthy; when one part suffers the rest will eventually do likewise, making no role insignificant. What struck me the most was how the team rooted for each other; unhealthy competition between team mates was replaced with encouragement of all kinds. This was the true image of God being made known on the softball field; God can truly use anyone anywhere for His glory. Everywhere we go we are witnesses for Christ; people are watching our every move we make even at a softball game.
Softball and sports in general will always be a part of me- however, I have found that they DON’T define me; in fact, nothing of this world defines me. My value is found in Christ alone- He is my Refuge and my Strength. For so long I looked to the things of this world to define me; however, I have surrendered my plans for my life to God which is a very painful process as what I thought was best for me and my wildest dreams were not at all in line with God’s plans. I’ve realized that on my own I am nothing and my plans and dreams are meaningless; however, when I surrender to God, the unthinkable happens- dreams I could NEVER even begin to imagine become reality; my God is insane and I LOVE Him!
I miss TJ terribly, especially during softball season, but I know that one day in the future I will be able to give him a huge hug in Heaven; maybe we can play softball together!! ;)