By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — Only a few Father’s Days ago, I spent the occasion at an 8-hour dance recital just to watch Sofia perform for, maybe, a grand total of eight minutes.
I accepted it as my lot in life.
Sofia was my own personal Tiny Dancer, and I figured this was how it was going to be – waiting all day with a growling stomach, clinging to a bouquet of flowers while racing other dance parents for ideal seats.
At the time, she was the kid – “that kid” — in her first year of 8-U Rec softball that sometimes needed 10-12 pitches (from a coach) before she hit the ball four inches.
I braced myself to become a dance dad and not a sports dad, as she was more in her natural habitat in ballet shoes than spikes.
We fostered her overall creative side with piano lessons, art camps/classes, etc.
Softball was just something cute she did, usually with yours truly serving in some sort of coaching capacity, as she enjoyed being part of a team and accessorizing, via headbands and wristbands.
And it was all fine with me.
It would run its course and we would look back one day and laugh.
As long she did well in school and maintained “angel on earth” status with the Mount Rushmore of teachers she had in the early grades, all was good.
I could not have been more proud.
At least that is what I thought.
Guess where I spent this past Father’s Day?
I’ll make it easy.
It was not at a dance recital.
It was not at a piano recital, either.
We were in gritty Gloucester City, N.J. – literally in the shadow of one of the bridges — for a travel softball tournament.
And not as spectators – well, mama was a tense spectator while I was in the dugout as a low-on-the-totem-pole coach who keeps the scorebook.
Sofia was on the field.
For those of you not familiar with this world of travel tournament softball, the pace of the game puts it several notches above neighborhood Rec leagues.
Players have to audition for teams in mid-summer and, if they earn an invite, they practice year-round in indoor facilities.
I’m not going to say Sofia is a superstar at this level, because she is not – not yet, anyway – but she meets the commitment level needed for travel ball.
She played left field and batted ninth in both games Saturday. She made a nice running catch and lined a single in the first game, a 7-4 loss to the second-ranked team in South Jersey. That performance earned her a chance to be a game captain in the second game, a terse 7-7 tie in which she stole a base and scored a run after getting hit by a pitch (her specialty).
On Sunday, Father’s Day, she was moved up a spot in the batting order, but we were promptly eliminated, 10-0.
Still, in the midst of this early morning drubbing, it hit me as she rifled a throw from deep left field to the cutoff at shortstop, how much she has developed her softball skill set in such a short amount of time.
And she has done it her way.
Sofia still dances – just not at a school that holds recitals on Father’s Day (eye roll) – and we limit her ballet classes to one long night a week to allow for softball practice, schoolwork and her litany of other secondary activities (Girl Scouts, 4H, school choir, etc.)
In the spring, Sofia also played for her school’s softball team, starting every game at her preferred position, catcher, and was named as an All-Star at year’s end.
It was not uncommon for her to go right from a school game or practice to a workout with her travel team, Velocity.
I could take all the credit for not giving up on her, but the truth is that she never gave up on herself and is eternally coachable, meaning the arrow is still pointing way up.
And no, I have zero delusions that she will be one of those young women on TV playing for UCLA or Oklahoma in the College Softball World Series.
Sofia was never going to be dancing at Julliard, either.
She is what I said I always wanted, an all-around kid.
This is not to be confused with me thinking Sofia is perfect, because she is not. She is the princess of procrastination. She is not quite as compliant with authority at home as she is with teachers, coaches, dance instructors, etc.
And she is bit too addicted to social media.
But Sofia is a young lady of many deep passions.
Beyond softball and dance, she is turning into a mini-me with her love for music (I wish she’d let me show her how similar my bands are to hers, but I’m not giving up). She enjoys going to museums, art and historical, especially if they are about ancient Egypt.
Sofia will soon return to her beloved creative arts camp – well-prepared with a purple streak in her air — to indulge herself in all it has to offer (except sports, as the kids there are, uh, not too athletic).
As parents, all we can do is let our children engage with the world, and embrace their passions with both arms.
In her case, she might need three.
Sometimes, it’s her mother helping her rake in the overflow.
Sometimes, it’s me.
That’s just what fathers do.
It is my lot in life — a life where every day is Father’s Day.
No matter where I am spending it.
This column first appeared in The Times Herald on June 23, 2019.