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Dimitroff plays in first game after her mother's passing

Marissa Dimitroff and her softball team at Frontier have a familiar phrase they use amongst one another: Never end a day with an ill thought or word, because you never know what the next day will bring.

Coach Deb Schruefer even said that the saying is “kind of what we live by.”

Those words cut the deepest on March 30. That was the day that Marissa’s mother and biggest supporter, Michelle, passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 44.

With the memory of her Michelle cheering her on still fresh in her mind, Marissa played in the first game without her mother on April 21.

She caught the entire game of a 5-3 victory at Orchard Park to open the season for the Lady Falcons.

“I was really nervous,” said Marissa. “This was the first game without my mother, so I knew. Everybody knew.”

Plenty of people from Orchard Park, West Seneca, Hamburg and beyond attended the game in support of Marissa.

“The softball world is so interconnected, and Marissa really found that out when her mom had taken ill,” noted Schruefer. “It was pretty overwhelming, to say the least.”

A former Buffalo Jill, Michelle was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago. It went away, but reoccurred in her bones. The doctors said that she had four years to live, but Michelle was much stronger than that.

“She has been to every single softball game, every single tournament, every college visit with me,” said Marissa, who was there for her mother as she went through Hospice care just before she passed. “So that’s why I’m sitting here today with my whole family here supporting me because they know that the first game without mom is going to be difficult.”

Many of those in attendance were decked out in pink on game day, including her teammates - whom Marissa said has “been a great support system” over the years - whether it was a pair of gloves or shoe strings.

A pink ribbon with the word “Mom” written on it tied Marissa’s hair up under her helmet. She first wore it last year when Frontier held a Pink Game for her mother where Michelle had the honor of throwing the first pitch.

An accessory even older than Marissa’s ribbon was a necklace that she taped up and hid under her jersey for the entirety of the Orchard Park game. Michelle gave it to Marissa for her communion when she was in the third grade.

“Listen, I had her taped here,” Marissa said as she pointed to her chest, where she kept the heart-shaped necklace with a cross etched inside of it. “There’s my cross. I have mom on.”

“This team has grown together tremendously,” Schruefer said. “They just have the utmost respect for one another and for every team that they play. They’re a team that gets along great on and off the field. They have strong character.”

You would have never known such emotions were running through Marissa on opening day. Schruefer even calls Marissa her “cool as a cucumber catcher.” Coach even credited her as calling a great game behind the plate.

Though the emotions were certainly there, Marissa stayed on the task at hand and helped steer Frontier to victory. The young catcher played as well as she could have because she knew her mother was still watching her play softball.

And in knowing that, Marissa was content.

“I said ‘You know what, it’s going to be a good game,’” Marissa said, with a smile and her necklace in hand.

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