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Thursday, May 24, 2012
I have been blessed to play this game

By Ashley Hansen

Is it really over? I keep asking myself that question over and over again. The game that has been my life for 17 years came to an end last Sunday in Lafayette, La. Even though we fell short of a trip to the WCWS and my ultimate goal of a national championship, I wouldn't change anything.

Softball has taught me so much more than just wins and losses. The game has blessed me with some of the most incredible and most influential people in my life. Teammates, coaches, families and fans from the past 17 years have evolved into lifetime friends. Softball, in a unique way, introduced me to my boyfriend of three and a half years. It has even strengthened the already strong bond that I have with my family.

My sisters are the reason I fell in love with softball in the first place. I am the youngest of four girls, and I wanted to be just like them in every way, especially with softball.

My parents did so much to help turn my dream of playing college softball into a reality. In high school, my Dad would drive through the night (with Mom as No. 1 copilot and me asleep in the back) to one of my many California tournaments. Sometimes we wouldn’t leave until 2 o’clock Saturday morning so that I could go to a football game or a dance. Looking back now, I cannot be more grateful. I am so blessed to have these amazing people in my life. Mom, Dad, Tammi, Tara and Megan: Thank you guys for everything.

It was heart-wrenching when I found out that softball would be taken out of the Olympics indefinitely. Ever since I could remember, playing in the Olympics was my dream. I always knew that softball wouldn’t be a career for me; that’s one of many reasons why I decided to attend Stanford and get the best of both worlds, academically and athletically. But when the Olympics were taken away, I knew that my playing days would end sooner than originally planned.

I have realized that this game has provided me with all the intangible skills I need to achieve anything in life: the confidence that every woman should have, the strength to deal not only with success but with failure, the attitude to never be satisfied and always strive for more, and the leadership to step up to the plate in a tight situation and deliver. The lessons I learned from this game have prepared me for my next journey I'm about to embark on: the real world. Does it sound a little scary? Sure, but I know I’m prepared for anything.

One last note: This is not the end of softball for me. Although I will no longer be competing, I plan on joining the fight to get our game back where it should be: the Olympics. I also plan to continue participating in camps, lessons, and I might even poke my head in on the Stanford team every once in a while (you’re not going to get rid of me that easily, Coach Rittman). I’ll always be an avid follower, and I even look forward to some of these super regional matchups this week. I’ll be watching, following and cheering on many of the friends I have made over the years. Good luck to you all and thank you to those who have followed along with this blog. I truly enjoyed it.