Fittingly, Feindel's number is up ...

New London

It was Orson Welles who said this: "If you want a happy ending, it depends, of course, on where you stop your story."

Hayley Feindel's story could have stopped Sunday in the NCAA softball regionals, quite fittingly, since that's where her career ended. She was, inexplicably, the victim of more illegal pitches called against her, further illustrating what umpires and vampires have in common: They all suck.

But the whiz kid pitcher's story forged on, even if unwittingly, all the way to Tuesday back at Coast Guard Academy. This was the athletic awards ceremony at Chase Hall. Feindel, a two-time All-American, already earned enough hardware for an aisle at Lowe's.

"You're going to hate me for this," Coast Guard athletic director Tim Fitzpatrick told Feindel and her mom and dad, who were summoned to the podium for this mysterious announcement.

Fitzpatrick knows that Feindel, who does humble as a habit and not a reaction, would just as soon have carried on with her day.

That's when Fitzpatrick announced that Feindel's uniform number would be retired.

Hayley Feindel is the first athlete in the venerable history of place to earn such an honor.

On the wall near the podium, a sign reads that the capacity of the room is 1,331.

And what felt like 1,331 people stood and applauded for more than a minute, while Feindel's face beamed with happiness.

A happy ending.

They unveiled her No. 16, a primer for the more formal ceremony sometime in the fall, when Feindel can return to campus from her postgraduate post in Kodiak, Alaska.

"I was shocked," Feindel was saying later, after the rock star treatment, posing for pictures with teammates, friends, officers, parents, grandparents and kids. "I didn't see this coming at all. An incredible honor. For the athletic staff to get together and do this for me means a lot. I have so much respect for them."

Fitzpatrick conspired with softball coach Donna Koczajowski in creating the idea to retire Fenidel's number. Even better, they kept it a secret.

"Coach K and I were trying to figure out some sort of suitable recognition. It started with a conversation about this being the 40th anniversary of Title IX," Fitzpatrick said. "It quickly moved to how impactful she's been as a player and a person. We could think of no better person to honor with that kind of recognition than Hayley."

Fitzpatrick read Feindel's accomplishments to some oohs and ahhs in the crowd: A two-time All-American. NCAA Division III career leader in wins, innings pitches, strikeouts, games started, complete games. Sixty-two career shutouts, nine no-hitters, two perfect games. She led the Bears to four conference titles and various runs in the NCAA tournament.

She was also a cause célèbre, a frequent perpetrator — or so some umpires say — of illegal pitches that derailed potential trips to the World Series. Even an NCAA memo to umpires before this tournament didn't stop some of them from breathlessly forcing themselves into the outcome of games.

And exactly never did Feindel even hint at a persecution complex. No woe-is-me. Just "I'll have to get better."

This just in: success and character are mutually exclusive. Just not with No. 16 in blue and orange.

And that's why her number is immortalized.

"She's probably the one cadet everyone here knows," Fitzpatrick said. "Just say the name 'Hayley' and everyone knows who you're talking about."

If some enterprising journalist fancied an opus about women in the military, he or she might start on the banks of the Thames. Its most famous cadet just got her jersey retired. The first female superintendent, Rear Adm. Sandra L. Stosz, watched the aforementioned cadet pitch live this weekend. There was Stosz, next to Fitzpatrick, getting bleacher butt like everybody else.

And she could have been anywhere else, really.

Says a lot about her passion.

Maybe that's why she was recently selected as one of Newsweek's "150 Women Who Shake the World."

Stosz shakes the world.

And Hayley Feindel strikes out the rest of it.

Pretty good ending to the 2012 year. ... Not even the umpires can ruin that.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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