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Jun 19, 2022

A Father-Daughter Bond

February 10, 2022 – Opening Day

“Have Fun – Have a Great Season – and Continue to Make Memories!”

Those were the final words of the preseason letter that Carlos Guimbarda wrote to his daughter, senior outfielder Marissa Guimbarda, before she began her final softball season with Clemson. A tradition that began Marissa’s senior year of high school summed up with one final exchange before the senior took the field for her last season as a collegiate student-athlete playing a sport that began with her and her father at the young age of four.

April 29, 2022 – Beginning of Senior Weekend

Flashing forward to the final series of the 2022 regular-season, Marissa and Carlos sat down to recount all the things that softball has brought the two: wins, losses, the highest of highs, the lowest of lows and most importantly, a slew of memories that led to an unbreakable bond between them both. The pair began with what it was like when she was 13 going through challenging times in middle school and Carlos used the infamous Taylor Swift lyrics, “People throw rocks at things that shine,” line on her. It didn’t have anything to do with softball in the moment, but Marissa recalls it like he said it yesterday and applies it to the things she’s gone through on the diamond. Softball is a game of failure. Players will fail more often at the plate than they will succeed, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to gain from every at bat.

The two move on to recalling the days where Carlos served as Marissa’s travel ball coach. They laugh over the moments where the father-daughter relationship took precedent over the coach-athlete one. It was a growing relationship between the two of them, and one that they had to navigate each day. Through it all, Carlos made an emphasis to never allow Marissa to miss out on a “normal” childhood experience. The pair distinctly remembers a travel trip one October when they were on their way to a fall camp, and Carlos pulled off in a small town to take Marissa and one of her friends to a haunted house for Halloween. It was meant to be a break from the long road trip but quickly turned into memory the two look back on with fondness.

As the two started recounting the memories they have shared during Marissa’s collegiate career, the thing that kept returning to the forefront were the letters that Carlos had penned to his daughter prior to every season. Since her freshman season at Furman, Carlos wrote a letter for Marissa to read on the day of her first game each season. It became a routine for Marissa on the opening day of every year to take a cup of coffee, find a quiet spot in her house or at the hotel the team was at and read the letter.

Clemson Tigers Official Athletics Site

“When I read the letters, I hear them in my dad’s voice, so I don’t have to think about calling him to give me a pregame pep talk,” said Marissa. “Every time the email comes with the letter, I usually cry. Not because of what’s in it but because I know the letter is full of words of encouragement from my dad. I still have the one from freshman year printed out in my softball bag. It’s wrinkled, crumbled, dirty and five years old, but I keep it with me because in times when things are rough, I can pull it out and remember that regardless of what happens on the field, my dad is proud of me, and everything is going to be alright.”

“I knew every year I wrote them there would be another year,” said Carlos. “With this last one, I knew it was the final one. Her entire collegiate experience has been a blessing for both of us. To get to experience all the highs and lows with her has been a once in a lifetime experience. We’ve both learned a lot of life lessons from her collegiate run. I’m so happy that she experienced it and has had so much success playing this game. I’m also happy that she is so well prepared for the next chapter of her life to begin when it comes to an end.”

Reading the letters every season started off as a way for Marissa to look back on what the game has taught her but quickly turned into a way to recount all the memories and blessing this sport has brought. From friendships to celebrations to numerous records (and what her and Carlos didn’t know at the time, her first Super Regional appearance), they were able to look back at the entire experience as a blessing for what was gained from her five years of collegiate softball.

“A lot of things I’ve gone through would not have happened if I didn’t play softball,” continued Marissa. “On the flip side, I wouldn’t have the relationship I do with my dad without this sport. When I step into the batter’s box, his voice is the only voice I hear amongst the 1600+ fans in a stadium. Being able to hone in on what he’s saying gives me all the confidence in the world to play my best game.”

Carlos added, “It’s a special bond. I think this experience is something that I’ll remember forever because of the bond this sport brought us. Life is filled with adversity, but softball has added so much value to Marissa’s life through the numerous traits she has learned that will only pay dividends for any challenges she faces in her future. I’m so happy she had the chance to participate and help build the Clemson softball program from the ground up. The individual and team successes has been so fun to watch and will serve as a life-long memory that I can tell my grandkids someday. It was awesome to witness as a fan, but even more special as a Dad!”

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May 1, 2022 – Senior Day

Prior to stepping into the batter’s box for one of her final at bats of her career in McWhorter Stadium, Marissa did a sweep with her eyes looking for one thing, and one thing only: her father. It didn’t take her long to spot the man that first introduced her to the game she’s loved for 18+ years in his regular spot. Before she stepped into the box, the senior thought about the bond the two of them shared:

“Out of all the people, my dad has always believed in me. No matter what my batting average is, no matter how many wins our team has, no matter how many home runs I’ve hit, I can always except the same nine words to be texted to me prior to first pitch: ‘I’ll be there. Have a great game. Love you!’”

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