My 9-year-old grandson, Tyler, is playing on a couple of baseball teams this year. He loves the game, and he loves being around the other kids. Winning and losing isn’t a life or death thing to him. Last night he proved it.
His team was ahead on the scoreboard entering the final inning, and Tyler was playing second base. With one out and a runner on first base, the batter hit a ground ball directly at Tyler who fielded it cleanly, tagged the runner as he passed by, then threw on to first base to complete the double play. Game over, right?
Not so fast. As the crowd and his teammates cheered Tyler’s play and the win, Tyler ran over to the pitcher (who was the opposing team’s coach) and told him, “I missed the tag.”
I can only imagine the coach was a little surprised at Tyler’s words and the urgency with which he spoke them. That coach then told the other umpires and coaches what Tyler had said. Decision reversed. The game wasn’t over.
The teams went back on the field, and the game resumed. The next player struck out anyway, so it didn’t matter in terms of the final score.
But it did matter, especially to Tyler.
When asked why he admitted the missed tag — and I’m not sure how many would have — Tyler simply replied, “I just wouldn’t be able to live with that regret the rest of my life.”
From the “mouths of babes,” right? Would a big league player, with the game on the line, being paid millions to make that tag, be willing to admit he missed it and give the other team an opportunity to win the game? I would like to think so, but my gut and the nightly news tells me otherwise.
Would it happen at the college level or even the high school level?
I’ve watched a lot of junior sporting events. I’ve seen the best and the worst that sports brings out in people. I’ve seen parents and coaches push the “winning is everything” attitude on kids from T-ball on up. I’ve seen what it has done to the attitudes and the integrity of the kids. I’ve seen the ruination it has brought to sports. I truly regret whatever part I played in fostering it.
In all those years, and in all those games, I don’t recall a player or coach ever disputing, or insist on reversing, a bad call made in their favor. If you can get away with it you do. Period. It’s about winning.
I don’t know if Tyler would have thought differently about his decision if he had considered the possibility that his team could lose the game, but I don’t think it would have mattered.
In the moment of decision he went with integrity. He embraced sportsmanship. He went with what was right. He acted in a quick and decisive way to right a wrong. If only more of us “grown ups” would follow his example.
Ron Eckberg is a writer, speaker, musician, and pastor living in Erie. Contact Ron at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit him on the web at www.roneckberg.