Celebrating one last time

As I read the comments and look at the photos from the OU Softball team’s trip to the White House yesterday, I cannot help but smile and feel unbelievably proud.  I have been around the game of softball a while because my sister’s best friend played in high school and college.  She was always around so I would support her at games.  I never completely understood or immersed myself in it until a few years ago.  I was (and for the most part, still am) more of a basketball person.  I would play and shoot until I couldn’t see the backboard anymore.  Then something happened that threw me in the deep end of the OU Softball program and I have yet to get out of the pool.

A few years ago, I directed an athletics donation be given to the Diamond Club, the booster club for softball.  A short while after, the coaches’ secretary asked if I’d help with a tailgate.  I said yes and showed up to help at the requested time.  I began meeting donors who were fans and realized this was a great group, a group I was now a part of unintentionally.  The next week, I helped out again.  I started learning names and interacting with current members.  Come the summer of 2011, I found myself being asked to be the Secretary (aka Communications person).  I laugh when people randomly come up to me at games and tailgates to ask “Are you the one who sends out the e-mails?”  I hesitate before answering…”If you’re happy with them then yes.  If not…then no.”

A class act program headed by a coach who has now not only won one championship but two..and who has met not only one, but two presidents.  A girl from California who took a chance and made her case on why she should be the head coach of a program that was in shambles.  Thank God for taking chances…

A Loss to the OU Softball Family

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When I chose to make a donation to the OU Softball program a few years ago, I had no idea of the blessings I would receive in return.  In the early stages of my being a member of the booster club (appropriately named Diamond Club), I was more of a spectator.  In a short amount of time, I encountered a wonderful group of people, some of whom have become friends.  Thanks to some persuasion from our head coach, it didn’t take me long to get more involved.   I’m now the Secretary or “Communications Director” as I have jokingly  dubbed myself.

The Diamond Club is a group of softball fans who have chosen to give their time, money and resources to the OU Softball program.  They come and help because they want to and believe in the vision that Coach Gasso has created.  Whatever path led them members have joined and their interest is contagious thus leading to more members by word of mouth.  We have grown to care about one another so when someone is sick or has surgery, phone calls are made and e-mails are sent.  Cards get signed and prayers are a given.  One person we can always count on to express her concern in a genuine way, along with her staff, is head coach Patty Gasso.  She is down-to-earth, approachable and one who will jump right in and help when she can.  These attributes help members feel appreciated and even more motivated to help.

Take our last Christmas party for example.   Always one to try to divide her time between personal and professional obligations, Coach Gasso e-mailed me a few days before the party notifying me she had a conflict the night of our party.  I simply wrote her back saying that any time we can have with her would be great, but totally understand her having to be short.  In typical fashion, Gasso stayed longer than she probably should’ve but never appeared in a rush.  She stopped by each table, visiting with members and never saying no to a picture.  Thinking about one member in particular who was in attendance makes me smile.  As Gasso approached the table where Gene Fuzzell was, he stood up to greet her.  When Coach speaks, Gene’s attention is held and the respect he has for her is quite apparent.  Moments like this are even better when captured.

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This past Monday, shortly after I got to work I received a phone call from Barbara Stemm, a friend and the co-president of the Diamond Club.  She shared that Gene was in the hospital and his cancer had returned in an aggressive manner.  I sat there numb with a lump in my throat, not wanting the call or news to be real.  Before the tears started to fall, I told her I would send out an e-mail to let everyone know and vaguely recall mumbling something like “Okay, keep me posted” before managing to hang up.

Fast forward to Friday and I got the call from Barbara I was dreading since Monday.  Our sweet and kind friend Gene lost the battle to cancer and had passed away.  After I hung up, I called Coach Gasso who had just recently returned from being out-of-town.  When I told her he had died, she said, “I was just there visiting him.  He was still on the respirator.”  As I write this today, I can’t help but think of an expression we’ve all heard many times “God works in mysterious ways.” I do believe that Coach Gasso was meant to get back when she did so Gene could see her one last time.  He was taken from his family and friends all too soon.  However, he is in a better place with no cancer and no pain.  Though he’ll be missed greatly, I know he’ll be smiling down on all of us, especially when we cheer on the team he loved so much, the Oklahoma Softball team.