Thursday, May 11, 2017

Chelsea Thomas Retires

Former Missouri Tiger Chelsea Thomas officially retired in February, but took to social media today to give an in-depth look back at her career that spanned multiple All-American awards and a lengthy career in the NPF.

The veteran hurler's retirement was quiet and subdued in February, when the news officially hit the league transaction wire, but she discussed the news extensively in a Facebook post on Thursday.

“I’m officially retiring from playing softball. I wanted to share a little note in reflection of my career,” she began, before embarking on a moving rembrance of her playing career, beginning with her start in the game and culminating with her career in the NPF.

Now an assistant coach at McKendree University in Missouri, where fellow Tiger alum Ashley Fleming is head coach, Thomas’ post is shown below, in its entirety.

“I'm officially retiring from playing softball. I wanted to share a little note in reflection of my career.

"In life, everything must come to an end.... 

"It all started in 4th grade when I got the chance to step into a circle with a ball in my hand. It wasn't very pretty, let me tell ya! But being in that circle sparked a feeling that I had never felt before, deep in my soul. I fell in love with pitching that very day that I failed so terribly. It created this hungry monster inside of me. I wanted that ball in my hand 24/7. I wanted to learn and pitch as much as I possibly could. I wanted to be the best and I wanted to throw the ball as hard as I possibly could. My Dad jumped on board right away as he saw the fire that lit inside of me when I pitched. I had some natural gifts, even as a young child with my size and height that helped me make big jumps quickly in my childhood. As I started to realize my own potential, my hunger only intensified. I wanted more. I came to realize I wanted to play in college, be named a USA Women's National Softball Team Member and play this game, that I so deeply loved, professionally. I knew that in order to get these results out of the game, I was going to have to put way more in. So, I became a perfectionist. Almost to the point where it was a double edged sword for me. But that mindset pushed me and moved me to do things I didn't even imagine I could do myself. And in all of my preparation leading up to my chance to achieve these goals, I got humbled and knocked down at times because I wasn't perfect. I got the chance to succeed because I failed. I got the opportunity to experience success because I underwent adversity. And this may be one of the most beautiful life lessons I have been given through playing softball. Failure is not a negative thing. It's a gift. An opportunity to learn, grow and make adjustments. The song lyrics, "Don't you know that it's the low that makes the high so sweet" plays in my head on repeat every single time I fail and it could not be more true. After overcoming a failure, the success you have after is only magnified. So, some advice to young girls out there, own your failures, keep fighting and grinding it out in practice and in the gym, because when you finally embrace them enough to make those changes...your success is going to be more than you could ever ask for. 

"It took a lot of hard work, a crazy amount of support from my family and a little stroke of luck, but I got to check off all of the softball goals that I made for myself in 4th grade. My career at Mizzou was a dream. My team and coaches were incredible. The fans were out of this world. I am blessed to be able to call Mizzou my second home. I will NEVER forget being in the circle at University Field with 2 outs and 2 strikes in the bottom of the 7th. I can still feel the surge of energy that ran through my body from my team and the fans surrounding the entire stadium on their feet. 

Mizzou's team success during my career led to me receiving an email one day stating that "I was invited to try out for Team USA. It was one of the best days of my life. I got the chance to play for my country for two years, during which softball was out of the Olympics. Let me tell you though, the feeling you get standing on top of the podium when they put a Gold Medal around your neck at the Pan American Games, while hearing our National Anthem is indescribable. 

"After graduating college and my career at Mizzou came to a close, another incredible opportunity came to me in the form of a phone call from the USSSA Pride. I was offered a contract to play softball professionally. The owner of the team, Don Dedonnatis, has an inspiring vision of equality for female athletes and by receiving the honor to play for the USSSA organization, he gave his athletes nothing but the best. I have been incredibly privileged to have been part of his mission to push for professional equality in the sports world for female athletes. In my last four years on the team, we won the Championship Cowles Cup trophy two times. I was surrounded by some of the greatest softball players of all time and learned more than I could have dreamed of from them all. 

"In writing this, I've shed a few tears, but I have so much to be thankful for and so many people to thank. My family is everything to me. To my dad, I can't thank you enough for all the time you've put into making me the pitcher I am today. I honestly wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for your sacrifices, tough love, encouragement and countless hours of catching me. I want you to know that there is a piece of you in every ounce of success I ever had in my career and I never took any of my time with you on the field for granted. You gave me, that wild 4th grade girl, the inner confidence to believe in myself and that I could do anything I set my mind to. My work ethic is a direct result of watching you throughout my life and I am so grateful that you are MY dad! To my mom, I don't think I ever had a harsher critic on that field than you and I mean that in the best way possible. Your honesty kept me grounded and humble. I learned how to be accountable and take ownership of mistakes, which only made me a better person and player. But, with all that said, I knew you were always the first person in line in my corner. You were my sounding board and were always there for me to vent. You were always on my side and I can't thank you enough for that. To my grandparents that hardly ever missed a single game during my career, I can't thank you enough for just plain being there for me. Through the good and the bad, I still got the same hugs and the same smiles regardless. Grams, you don't know how many times I looked forward to hearing you say, "if you did your best, that's all that you can do" after games. You always knew exactly what I needed to hear and it meant the world to me just having you in the stands. I love you all so very much! To my many teammates over the years, I don't even have words to show my gratitude towards you all. Your friendships, your leadership, your ability to show me what a true teammate entails, your work ethic and your talent have all been gifts from each and every one of you. You all have pushed me and taught me how to be better, both mentally and physically. Getting to share a playing field with all of you has been inspiring, but getting to know you as people has been life altering. Thank you for all of the ways you have touched my heart and shared your gifts with me both on and off the field. I deeply value those memories we've made and the friendships that have grown throughout the years. I love you all.

"I feel so incredibly blessed and humbled. That little girl I used to be in 4th grade is still inside of me. My love for this game has only grown deeper. This game has shaped my life in every possible sense. I have absolutely no regrets looking back over my 17 years of pitching that softball and standing in that circle. I feel like this game has given and given and given to me. And it's time for me to give myself back to the game. So, I'm leaving this game as a player, with my heart forever in that circle and my mind shifting to a little bit different role as a coach, on a bucket, in the dugout. This game has gifted me so many unbelievable memories, experiences, friendships, travels and life lessons. But, there's no greater gift than receiving the privilege to pass on my passion and love for this game to my players. And that's what I will continue to do day in and day out in my coaching career. I will give back to this game and share all that the game has given to me. The circle of a softball life in the truest form...and what a beautiful life it is. Thank you everyone for supporting me and making my career so special. 


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