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How A Broken Bat Helped Emily Crane Find Herself

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(Photo courtesy of National Pro Fastpitch)

When Emily Crane’s beloved Rawlings bat broke at the start of the 2018 National Pro Fastpitch season, something told her the summer would not go quite like she had hoped.

The outfielder, who is currently in the midst of her fourth NPF campaign and third with the Chicago Bandits, is superstitious by nature, as many softball players are. But last summer, Crane’s superstitions went beyond the realm of routine and became a sort of all-consuming obsession.

“I had such big superstitions,” Crane told Softball America in a phone interview. “After my bat broke, I couldn’t find a bat I was comfortable with. Mentally, right away, it sat with me.”

It sat with Crane so much, in fact, that it altered the way she approached her at-bats in 2018. Instead of going through her normal routine and visualization process with her own bat, Crane found herself hurriedly asking her teammates to borrow their bats just before she stepped into the on-deck circle, endlessly searching for a weapon that suited her like her lost Rawlings bat once did.

Though her numbers were more than respectable, Crane never did find a bat, or a mindset, that worked well for her last season. Ultimately, she believes that reality had a significant impact on her both personally and athletically.

“I was maybe playing half as much as I had before,” said Crane, who often played the role of pinch hitter for Chicago in 2018. “It was different for me. There was no routine last year and routine is really important to me. It’s crazy how important the mental side of the game is.”

But this season, things are different for the 25-year-old. With a new bat and a multitude of time spent in the offseason getting to know herself and how her brain works, Crane has a renewed mindset that has helped her have a career year for the Bandits so far in 2019. She currently leads the NPF in slugging percentage at .692 and is tied for second in both home runs with three and on-base percentage with a .486 mark.

"I think the difference this year for me is my mindset," said Crane, who was an All-American at the University of Missouri. "Last year, I kind of got into a place that mentally as an athlete you really don’t want to be in. Now, I’m just trying to enjoy the experience of playing and the time I have with the people who are here. I’m in a really good place mentally."

Crane, who served as a volunteer assistant coach at her alma mater this past college softball season, was able to use her personal struggles from last summer to help this year's Tigers with their mental game.

"I had kids coming up to me and asking me about the mental side of the game and I could help them with that," Crane stated. "It was a blessing in disguise that I had that experience in the NPF last year because I was able to relate to the players at Mizzou and help them. That helped me appreciate the game more and realize that things happened the way they did last season to grow me."

Though Crane is not returning to Missouri's softball program this coming season in order to explore other professional opportunities, she is grateful for the experiences she had with the Tigers' coaching staff this past year to learn and grow from those around her.

"This year at Mizzou was really special to me," said Crane, who comes from a family with a long line of Missouri graduates. "Being given an opportunity to go back to my alma mater and learn was a really unique experience. When I talked, (the players) listened. That was really comforting for a young coach like me. They wanted to know what I know."

With a fresh perspective on the sport she loves, and a desire to continue to learn about herself and others around her, Crane is no longer dwelling on the things she can't control, like broken bats and lineup decisions. Instead, she is more focused on the parts of her softball experience that will endure after her playing days end.

"While I’m still playing, I would love to win a championship with the Bandits," Crane said. "But more than softball itself, I just really want to connect with the people I’m around. When I’m done, I want to be remembered as a good teammate and a good friend because at the end of the day, it’s just a game."

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