It Is About How You Play the Game

I’ve been thinking a lot about the polarization in this country. While it may not be true of Jo and Joan On-the-Street, there seems to be a desire to “win” at any cost these days. In business, politics and life in general, the “all is fair in love and war” rule seems to still apply. It’s beat the other guy any way possible instead of doing something because there is merit in what you do.

Last week I read a piece in our local newspaper about sportsmanship that made an impression on me. In 2008 Sara Tucholsky was a senior on the West Oregon ladies softball team. Through all of her days playing softball, Tucholsky had never hit a home run. At 5’2, she described herself as a line drive hitter, as opposed to a power hitter. (She had four hits in 34 at-bats for the season.)

But on this spring day, Sara did it. In the second inning of a game against conference rival Central Washington, she hit one over the fence with two runners on base. As she rounded first base, Sara realized she had missed the bag. NCAA rules require the player to touch all the bases, even though she’d hit the ball over the fence. When Sara turned back to touch first, it happened. She tore the ACL in her right leg. Wracked with pain, she crawled back to first base. As she lay hugging the bag, West Oregon head coach Pam Knox asked the umpire what the rule was for substituting a runner. She was told that if she put in a substitute runner it would count as a two-run single, robbing Sara of her only career homerun. Knox was also informed that if any of Sara’s teammates touched her or tried to help her round the bases, she would be called “out.”

At this point Mallory Holtman, a player with more homeruns than anyone in conference history, spoke up. She approached the home plate umpire and asked for a ruling. What if she helped Sara? You see, Holtman played for the other team. The umpire was dumbfounded, but had to reply there was no rule against a player for the opposing team assisting Tucholsky. So Holtman and teammate Liz Wallace asked Sara if it was okay with her if they picked up Sara and carried her around the diamond. With tears in her eyes, Sara could only say thank you. Holtman and Wallace gingerly carried Sara, pausing at each base to allow her to touch them with her right foot. When they reached home plate, the two Central Washington players ran back to their places on the field while Sara’s teammates took over. Later, after the game, the umpire clarified the rule, saying Coach Knox could have inserted a pinch runner to successfully complete the homerun. But at the time everyone was working on the original, on-the-field ruling.

Oh, by the way, Central Washington lost the game 4-2. Sara’s three-run homer accounted for the winning runs. West Oregon went on to win their conference championship in 2008. But to me, the real champions were Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace. I can only hope – we should all hope – that more young people with Mallory and Liz’s sense of right and wrong enter business and, dare I say, politics. If only our leaders today would take a lesson from a couple of college softball players.

Go to YouTube and type in the girls’ names to see an account of the above story.