BROOMFIELD — Every athlete has a specific vision on how they want their competitive playing days to come to and end.
A walk-off home run, the game winning goal or even hoisting a championship trophy would be ideal.
Getting hit by a pitch and breaking your arm while trying to drag bunt ... not so much.
Rainey Gaffin had so much more she wanted to do with what little time was left in her final season with the University of Tennessee Volunteers softball team, but one pitch in a SEC quarterfinal victory over South Carolina on May 12 put an abrupt end to that.
"When it hit me, I just knew something wasn't right. They way it hit me was just weird, and I know because I've been hit by a ton of pitches and it was just wrong," said Gaffin, a former star at Legacy who was a two-time All-American at Tennessee among her long list of accolades over the four season in Knoxville.
"I didn't think about it until I was sitting on the bench."
The X-ray, which she said took forever to come up, revealed what she already knew and rendered her a spectator for the rest of the SEC Tournament in Starkeville, Mississippi and then the following week when the Vols hosted a regional tournament. They lost to Arizona in eight innings and missed out on a chance to move on to the Super Regionals.
"You hate to say shoulda, coulda or woulda, but you have to wonder what would have happened had she not broken her arm," said mom and Legacy coach Dawn Gaffin, who watched her daughter get six screws and a plate in her wrist and arm. "It's part of the game and it happens from time to time."
It can hardly take away from what amounted to a remarkable four-year career for Rainey Gaffin, whose UT bio page is as impressive as you will find. In her last two seasons, Gaffin — who was a part of two college world series teams (including one as a freshman, where they lost to Oklahoma in the national title game)— was named All-SEC once and was twice an All-Defensive team selection in the SEC.
To her credit, Rainey has kept her head up and has had a chance to reflect on her time and relishes every moment of it.
"It was everything I had hoped for and more," said Rainey, who threw a no-hitter as a sophomore against Wright State. "Just being in that atmosphere (against Oklahoma as a freshman) is something you will talk about for a while and tell your kids about."
She also pointed to a 2-1 Super Regional win over Florida State, when she was in the circle, as another memorable moment.
Gaffin is now awaiting word on graduate school, likely in Florida and would love nothing more than to get into the sports administration. Her eventual goal would be to land an athletic director position.
As for a future in the game that has given her so much, she doesn't want to get into coaching and as for playing, she hasn't ruled out anything just yet.