WEST POINT, TO THEE

By Senior Emily Ballesteros Army West Point Women’s Softball

 Army West Point senior women’s softball player Emily Ballesteros.  Photo by Army Athletic Communications

A letter to the fans, coaches, West Point Community, my family and my teammates,
We have worked all of our lives to have the opportunity to play college sports. We spent countless hours with our parents driving to hitting lessons, pitching lessons, fielding lessons, to tournaments and showcases across the country just for the chance to play at one of the highest levels of softball. I was fortunate to play with the West Point name across my chest and to represent a team and a family much greater than myself.
I vividly remember playing in the 2014 Colorado Sparkler Softball Tournament and Army West Point was in the stands. Our recruiting liaison after the game had told me that West Point was interested in me as a third baseman and I looked at her like she was crazy. Play for the Army team? was all I was thinking in my head. I was in shock.
Looking back on that day six years later, the decision to play for the Army team and the Army family changed my life for the better.
Coming into West Point was one of the scariest moments of my life. However, knowing I had teammates with me throughout Beast and that I had a whole team waiting for me and my classmates to cross the finish line on A-Day, motivated me to push through and finish strong.
My cow year, during one of our first league games, I was sliding into third base and put too much weight on my left arm. I ended up popping my shoulder out of the socket and tearing my labrum. I will never forget the amount of pain I was in. It was not physical pain. I was pained because I thought I was not going to be able to play the rest of the season. I remember thinking all that work and effort was for nothing. I thought my season was over.
Over time, the swelling in my shoulder went down and I decided that I would continue to play. I was going to finish to the best of my ability and I continued to play shortstop for the remainder of the season (modified of course). I could not miss being on the field with my teammates, my best friends.
I distinctly remember every practice following my injury. My teammates would support me while yelling every time I would extend my left arm to catch a ball, or yell at me when they thought I was going to dive and hit the dirt. I was giving everything to my team, and I knew that the team knew it as well.
One very specific memory during my injury was our game against Boston University. I had to modify my swing and could only partially extend the barrel of my bat. However, during this league game in Boston, the bases were loaded and it was my turn to approach the plate. I had the mindset that I was just going to get the ball in play to give my teammates the opportunity to score.
I knew I wasn’t at my best, but if I did what I knew I was capable of, I knew we could make something happen. That’s the kind of team we were.
Needless to say, I ended up hitting my first collegiate grand slam and at that moment, it never felt better. I crossed home plate pounding my shoulder. Nothing could stop our team or any of us individually. We were capable of anything no matter the situation. This is what playing for Army West Point gives you.
You grind day in and day out, constantly recovering from injuries, illness, stress and soreness, but you never feel bad about yourself.
Every one of my teammates was going through the same challenges, and each one of my teammates and coaches were there to pick me up when I was down. You are never alone.

To my family,
Thank you. Thank you for every lesson you drove me to, tournament you spent your entire weekend at and every ounce of support you always provided. You were the first people to believe in me even before I knew how to believe in myself. You allowed me to have countless opportunities most people would only be able to dream of. I am so grateful for you all. I would not be where I am today without your support. You have allowed me to grow and fail in order to become the young woman I am today.
No matter where you were, whether in the stands or keeping track of live stats online, I always knew you were watching and cheering me on. I love you all with all my heart and I know you will always be my number one fans.
Although I may not be on the softball field anymore, I know you are just as passionate about my Army career and the future success that is in store for me and both my siblings.

To my teammates,
Here I go. I know I told you before, but I will tell you again. I shared this with you at the end of our season, a season that was cut short. It was a moment where I had felt as if my world stopped and I wanted to remind you to never take anything for granted. I will cherish the life-long memories I’ve made with you all and I cannot thank you enough for being my teammates during this (shortened) but amazing senior season.
I want to share some things with you all. First off, thank you for being on this team and sharing every moment of my final games with me. Thank you for helping me to be a better leader, not only for myself but for all of you. Thank you for trusting me and pushing me to be a better person and player. I am grateful for each one of you. I not only got to call you my teammates, but also lifelong friends and people I will love and cherish with all my heart. You made playing the game I love so much better than I ever thought it could be. This was a learning experience, not only for me, but for you all as well.
Remember, in the blink of an eye, all of this could vanish. Cherish every moment and opportunity you get to step on that beautiful dirt, look at all the fans and then look in your teammates’ eyes and know this is exactly where you should be. That is one of the most beautiful feelings and a feeling I hope to have again one day. I will always be a part of this team and each of you will always hold a special place in my heart.
From my plebe year until now, this team and program has grown and I expect you guys to continue to grow together. I will always be watching you guys, no matter if I am with you or not. I will always love you and be rooting for Army Softball 2.0, to Army Softball 3.0, and so on.
Thank you for the laughs, the cries and the experience of a lifetime. I will never forget what it feels like to wear that Army name and number across my chest and I am so happy I got to share that experience with all of you. I am sending all my love from your biggest fan and teammate.
Army Softball forever. Ladies, I’ll love you always.

Finally,
One of my favorite coaches always reminded us “You don’t have to, but you get to.” Never forget that. We get this once in a lifetime opportunity to wear a uniform that represents an institution much greater than ourselves.
We show up to a field representing the Army team and West Point. We hold our head up high knowing everything we had to overcome to get to that specific moment. Cherish it. Cherish every moment as if it’s your last. Never take anything for granted and remember to love the moment.
I will never forget the lessons I learned from all of my teammates and coaches while at West Point. They will live on through me as I take the next step in my Army career. Thank you, West Point, and thank you softball. You turned my dreams into a reality, and I will forever be grateful for you. It’s been an amazing journey.

Army Softball Forever,
Emily Ballesteros #3