Few sentences can pull an interview to a screeching halt more than the words “I was in the zone.”
The five words seem to explain everything about an athlete’s performance without explaining anything. I would rather a player tell me he harnessed the power of Odin, she wore her lucky socks or that the team ate at a Waffle House before the game rather than to simply say they were in the zone.
So I was full of frustration when I heard the sentence roll off the tongue of Brooke Goldsmith on May 31.
I was looking for words to help explain the efforts of the Elma High School senior from the state 1A softball tournament where she had struck out the first eight batters in the first game, followed an inside the park home run in one at bat by hitting the ball over the fence in her next plate appearance in the second game, drove in the winning run on her third straight triple in the third game and only gave up two hits and struck out 11 batters in the state championship game. Instead I got the zone.
She could have told me ‘It was 14 years of hard work paying off.’
Goldsmith first began picking up a softball back when she was four. As she watched her older sisters play, she wanted to join so she would pester her mom to play catch.
“She has been an athlete since before she was even 4 years old,” Brooke’s mother Wendy Goldsmith said. “She started saying ‘Mom, can I pitch to you?’ so she was basically throwing the ball at a very young age.”
Brooke loved softball so much that when she couldn’t convince someone to play catch she would just throw the ball onto the roof and wait for it to come back down.
“We would always be going to some sporting event on the weekends and it caught my eye in a way,” Brooke Goldsmith said. “Then all I wanted to do was play catch or pitch. I always had fun playing it and always wanted to get better.”
She could have said ‘I’m used to the pressure.’
For years Goldsmith has played with all eyes on her at Elma. If you went to a game where Brooke was playing it wasn’t hard to spot her, she was the one with the ball in her hand or on her foot. She has been a forward on the soccer team, the point guard on the basketball team and the pitcher on the fastpitch team.
“I’ve always had that weight on my shoulder,” Goldsmith said. “I finally just let it happen. I used to let it bother me really bad, I didn’t like being the center of attention like point guard, forward and pitching. It was too much. I struggled with it my sophomore and junior year. I hated having the pressure on my shoulders. I hated being the one that was always depended upon. (At state) I just took it in and said I got to do what I got to do because they are counting on me. I felt like they expected it from me so I just did it.”
Just doing it consisted of going 12-17 from the plate with four triples and two home runs and striking out 39 batters while recording four wins along the way.
During the Eagles 14-0 blugering of Seattle Christian, Goldsmith calmly remarked “I’m starting to get hungry. We got to end it.” Then she went out and struck out the first two batters before getting the third batter to ground out to end the game.
At one point during the same game the Seattle Christian base coach turned to me to ask “Who the hell beat her for league MVP.”
Montesano’s Madison Didion may have tied Goldsmith for the honor, but it was Brooke who could elicit swear words from even the most Christian of base coaches.
Goldsmith took the words most valuable player to a new level.
“She is the whole package,” Elma coach Janene Todd said. “She can pitch, she can hit, she could catch. If we needed a catcher, she could go back there and catch. She is just a phenomenal athlete. She just has it all … She was our league MVP and she was the MVP of this tournament. There is no doubt in my mind and I don’t think anybody else doubts it either.”
She could have just said ‘Don’t you know I’m Brooke Goldsmith,’ but she never would. Through several post-game interviews with the senior star she is always the first one to point out the play of her teammates. She deflects from herself with tired clichés and smiles big when you begin to talk about her friends who backed her up. If you asked her right now I’m sure she would be more than happy to tell about the defense behind her pitching and hits from Sydney Smythe and Karli Smythe and two home runs by Izzy Cristelli.
“Everyone knew it was time to step up if we wanted to go anywhere,” Goldsmith said. “We knew it was our last shot. We controlled our destiny.”
After winning the 1A state championship, Goldsmith’s destiny will change to a spot on the fastpitch team at Wenatchee Valley College, but I won’t soon forget her performance or the play of any of the Eagles who won the first team state championship I was able to cover for the Vidette.
So, after watching her completely rule the softball diamond for two days last month, how would I describe her performance… She was in the zone.