Holy Cross Softball Diary: On Base With Kelly O'Neil

Kelly O'Neil

Diary Entries
March 2, 2007
February 7, 2007
December 18, 2006
October 25, 2006
October 5, 2006
September 17, 2006

March 2, 2007

We're leaving this afternoon for Spring Break in Orlando, Florida. To say I'm excited is an understatement. After months of playing indoors, trucking up to lift in the snow and ice, and learning how to field the balls that take indescribable bounces off the gym floor -- it's finally time to really play ball.

The traveling is always an experience in itself, and a great way to bond as a team. There is always some action in the airport or on the plane itself -- like teammates who forget their license, someone who's so sick it's as if they have a brown bag permanently fixated to their green face, or watching a freshman struggle to maneuver luggage that's heavily over packed. We do a lot of laughing as we drag our bags through the airport. After all, we're a team that does a lot of laughing when we're together in general.

This year we're doing something different. We're playing in a highly competitive tournament in Central Florida on Saturday and Sunday; something that has not been done in a long time with a Holy Cross softball team. This weekend alone we'll face Virginia Tech and other large Division I programs who have already played around twenty games outside, and practiced months in the sunshine and warmer weather. This will be our first time outdoors, and obviously our first competition.

On Monday we will have our lone day off. After playing at least five games within twenty-four hours, I'm pretty sure most of us will be collapsed around the pool or the ocean. Then we'll spend the rest of the week in the Rebel Games Tournament outside of Orlando. We'll play two games each day, and fly out late Friday night.

I focused on AAU basketball in high school, and never played travel softball, so it's always a little bit of a culture shock for me when we play three or more games in one day, let alone back to back days. It's a great experience, and we hope to learn more about our strengths, each other, and what we need to continue to work on. Ultimately though, we want to win. Check back at the end of the week because I'll definitely write about our Spring Break, and hopefully we'll have many great games to show for our efforts!

Until Next Time,
Kelly O'Neil

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February 7, 2007

Our second semester and our softball preseason have both officially begun! We've been practicing together now as a full team for a while. We have practice indoors since the winter temperatures have finally decided to grace us with their presence. Most days we have late gym times, and get to make the frigid walk back to our dorms as the sweat literally freezes to our bodies. No big deal.

We're still lifting as a team twice a week to maintain the muscle and strength we worked all off-season to attain. We now spend many hours daily with our teammates, since we practice, lift, and grab dinner together. That's one of the great things about finally being in season; we actually have the chance to be together as a whole team. Our team chemistry is consistently improving, since we communicate as a whole in person. No more mass emails or instant messages need to be sent to keep people updated on softball and non-softball related issues. We're spending lots of time together now, and that amount will only escalate as we get more and more into our season.

As for our practices, we do lots of infield and outfield work. We do many repetitions of ground balls, some of which come skimming off the rubberized gym floor, making life flash before our eyes. We dive, we throw, we slide, we sprint, we yell, we get burns and bruises, and most of all, we get better. You have to have a passion and love for the sport to handle the long and dreary winter days playing softball inside. But like in any other sport, in softball, it's all about consistently repeating the proper fundamentals. Eventually your movements become muscle memory, and you stop thinking on the field and just react to the movement of the ball.

Coach Maneggia brought in a hitting coach to assist us as well. He works with us during the week at practice. We've been hitting a lot so far, and we're also getting video tapped to chart our progression. Every few days we view tape of our past performances. It's the absolute best way to see what we're doing well, and what areas we need to make improvements. I know personally the addition of technology has helped a good deal already.

I personally am enjoying being healthy again. I finally, and I mean finally, got rid of mono during the month long Christmas break. And despite hating the field house gym, since it's where I tore my ACL freshman year, my knee has felt great while running, cutting and sliding.

I love being an athlete, but more importantly, I love being a college athlete. There's a big difference between the two, and I think many college athletes who don't stick out a sport for four years realize the difference. You have to want to be practicing, playing, and doing all of the other requirements that come along with balancing college academics and athletics every day. It is a true commitment. Whether you are a football player, basketball player or play softball--you all put in lots of hours in the gym, practicing, lifting, on long bus rides, in meetings and fundraising. Any spare time you have is used for studying or attempting to have a social life. The hardest part is balancing it all. Listening to your friends who are not college athletes complain about how tired they are, how busy they are and how much work they have to do is sometimes frustrating. I get the fact that Holy Cross is a challenging school, and that most students here are overachievers and involved in clubs and activities on campus and in the community, but on top of all that, try being an athlete as well. It's a challenge, and that's why in my opinion only the strong survive.

We have about twenty-four days left until our spring break trip to Florida. Until the plane takes off, we'll be in the gym doing endless repetitions of groundballs and swings. Hopefully it'll all pay off.

Take Care!
Kelly O'Neil

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December 18, 2006

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Well, almost. Home was in sight, but we had to get through final papers, presentations and the last exams of the semester that amount for 25 percent of our overall grade first. No pressure.

The off season has been busy for the team with defensive and offensive workouts and lifts. Not to mention fundraising. Currently, we work the concession stands at home sporting events, sell Holy Cross Athletic t-shirts for 10 bucks (with part of the proceed going to support Breast Cancer Research), sell raffle tickets, and most recently a magazine drive.

We are playing in two tournaments in Florida during Spring Break, and are taking another trip shortly after to play in another tournament in Baltimore, Md. To become the best, we have to play with the best, and the only way to achieve that is by traveling to higher profile tournaments. But all that costs money. Money we don't have without hustling numerous fundraisers.

We are responsible for covering 75 percent of the cost of the spring trips. It is over $700 per player for the expenses of our trip to Florida alone. Needless to say, we'll be selling raffle tickets and magazine subscriptions at the family Christmas parties.

The team has been working hard - both in the gym and the weight room. I have yet to fully conquer mono that impeded me during fall ball. While I felt stronger and more like myself for a solid month, I relapsed and am once again forced to do nothing but rest.

Rest in college is easier said than done. It's not like I can sleep until 11:00 a.m., watch movies in bed, and have smoothies and other foods delivered to me bedside. It's college, not home. There are classes to attend, papers that need to be written, tests that I must do well on, and other time-commitments and obligations. Sure, I could have asked for extensions and all, but that's just not my style.

Instead, I finished out the semester by trying to get as much work done earlier in the day to ensure more sleep at night. But honestly, how can one pass out when Christmas carols are blasting from the gigantic speakers with bass enhancements from the rooms nearby? Or with the offers to decorate rooms, watch festive movies, or go out to dinner? I learned to be selective because I had to be. But until I stepped through the door to my own house in New York, I knew I would not be able to really rest -- and in turn knew I would not be able to beat mono.

Now I'm home and haven't done anything but sleep, watch daytime television, and eat good home cooking. I figure another couple of weeks of this rest and relaxation should cure me of my mono ailments. Because when January rolls around, and classes begin once again, so too does our season. Then, it's Showtime.

Happy Holidays to everyone who reads this and expect many more entries in the New Year!

Until Next Time,
Kelly O'Neil

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October 25, 2006

Our fall season is completely over, and I can honestly say that I am not upset we aren't outside at 6:00 p.m. in the much darker, much colder, fall sky. We practiced outside, but ended up having to spend more time inside the field house since it rained for a few days these past weeks. It's always bittersweet ending fall ball, for it means no more practices outside in the drastically colder air, which is a good thing, but simultaneously it means the beginning of long winter months spent practicing in the field house. Not my favorite on campus location. After all, it's the place where I tore my ACL freshmen year.

Twice a week now we have individual practice with our coaches in the field house. We go in small groups of three or four. One day is spent on defensive drills and repetitions, and the other day is all hitting.

The rubberized floor provides us with some unrealistic hops, or unpreventable slips, but ultimately these small practices provide us with a chance to hone our skills, improve on our weaknesses, and better accustom ourselves with our teammates in neighboring positions.

What's rough about our individual practices is that from now until January we can't practice as a full eighteen member team due to NCAA rules. We don't see each other everyday like we do during fall ball and obviously during our season in the spring. However, we lift as a team and typically make the trek from the top of the hill to the bottom to have dinner together -- where laughter, stories, and oftentimes pieces of food readily fly through the air.

On a different note, I think I've beaten mono. Now I'm just tired from something called being a student-athlete at Holy Cross. But I do feel a lot better than I did a month ago. I'm back to working out daily; I'm just more careful about getting enough rest and not overdoing it.

I think its funny how we are always told that our bodies need recovery time after we lift, and we need to get proper rest and relaxation to avoid illness, fatigue, even prevention from burning out. I wish I could go back to my room after lift and practice, lounge on the futon and pop in a DVD of Grey's Anatomy or 24. Or go to bed at 10:00 p.m. and sleep twelve straight uninterrupted hours. But this won't happen for me, or many other Holy Cross student-athletes. Not until Christmas break at least.

There's always something to do. Some paper to write. Some meeting to attend. Something to study for all night in the library. Thanksgiving break is just a huge tease. A lot of athletes in-season do not even get a break. We will have a few days off from softball though, eat way too much turkey and baked goods, spend some time on the couch sleeping or watching football, and then start worrying about all the stuff that awaits us upon our return to school. Like the twenty page research paper due our second day back, or the huge final exam in our most difficult class, that's only a week away.

It isn't until Christmas break, when there is no work to be done strictly because our second semester classes have yet to begin, that we can catch up on our favorite television shows, our sleep, our celebrity gossip, even our trips to the mall.

It is important to get off campus sometimes -- to get away from the library and the work, but finding that time while being a student-athlete isn't always easy. It's not a surprise that some students end up quitting their sport in college because it is a total year-round commitment. While I don't have much free time to do anything besides schoolwork, athletics, sleep, and watch a football game or TV show here or there -- I wouldn't want it any other way.

Until Next Time,
Kelly O'Neil

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October 5, 2006

Although I'm still fighting mono, I got back on the field and was able to play the two last fall ball weekends. First we played at Assumption College in a Sunday doubleheader. While we did not play exceptionally well, we did play hard and in turn won both games. I was just so excited to be playing since I had not played in a game situation since last April.

To say I've been frustrated is an understatement. I was swinging normally, but my adrenaline was pumping extra hard to compensate for my lack of full strength. I got a hold of one ball and hit a home run. I just remember touching the bases while running at jet-like speed. Seriously. Hopefully there will be many more hard hit balls from my teammates and myself this spring when it's really on.

Last weekend we played a doubleheader at UMass on Saturday. First we faced Connecticut. We lost 3-2, and waited until the final inning to score our two runs. We beat ourselves that game, and Connecticut was able to capitalize on our mistakes.

We played UMass our second game. Most of their starters looked like members of a basketball team because they were so big. They are a talented team, and it's no wonder why they got to the NCAA Super Regional last year.

I don't handle losing well. Not at all. If I'm playing basketball against my brothers in the backyard, or having a DQ challenge against my teammates, I want to win. So hopefully we'll do a lot less losing and much more winning come spring time. Much more. So going home 0-2 last Saturday wasn't enjoyable. But we did learn a lot from the games, both as a team and as individual players.

We do not have any more fall games, but we will still be practicing outside. Probably until our metal cleats can't dig through the frozen infield, and our hands are so cold that it's difficult to grip the bat. It's fine though, because when our season does begin come spring, chances are it will still be cold and the ground will still be frozen.

Columbus weekend is approaching, but not quickly enough. I think it's funny that most of us have had so much work, exams, papers and projects due, it's like we're in finals week a few months too soon. Unfortunately, schoolwork is part of college. But I plan on ample rest and relaxation this weekend, because come Wednesday, it's back to being a college student-athlete. Back to the work, the exams, the lifts, the meetings, the practices, and everything in between.

Until Next Time,
Kelly O'Neil

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September 17, 2006

There's no such thing as an off-season for any college athlete. Even though our season is not until the spring, within the first few days of classes beginning we were already back together as a team becoming familiar with new teammates, swatting away bugs from our sweaty and dirt filled faces in the outfield, and filling up loud tables at Kimball for team dinner.

My name is Kelly O'Neil. I'm a junior first baseman from White Plains, New York. I'm an English major with a concentration in creative writing and love being a college student-athlete at Holy Cross.

My story as a softball player has a twist, considering that within the first few weeks of my spring season freshmen year, I tore my ACL while playing intramural basketball after a softball doubleheader against league foe Army. After surgery, endless rehab, intense icing sessions after practices and games, and another mild surgery to remove a split (don't ask me how I managed to do that) screw in the repaired ACL this past summer, I can now honestly say that my knee feels better than ever.

Coming back to school and attending fall practice for the first time without having to strap up the large knee brace was such a great feeling. I felt faster, more confident and ready for a great year. Unfortunately however, after wondering why I had a bad sore throat and a body ache for quite some time, I was informed that I have mono. So once again I'm on the sideline watching from the dugout as my team played its first fall ball games against Sacred Heart and University of Hartford. Hopefully I'm recovering well and will be able to be back on the field in no time.

It's not an easy task for any athlete to be sidelined -- whatever the reason might be. The way I see it though is that times like these only make me a stronger person and athlete. I love my sport, and my passion for winning, improving and playing only intensifies when I'm away from it. After all, when something you love is taken away from you, that's when you typically miss it and desire it the most. I want to do well this year for personal reasons, but I'm well aware that individual accolades and statistics take care of themselves. Winning takes a team. And that's what we're trying to build right now; a team unified under a strong work ethic, a passion for the game, and a group of teammates together striving to achieve the same end result.

Hopefully my next entry won't be from the dugout.

Until Next Time,
Kelly O'Neil

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