Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Life Intrudes

I am keeping an eye on something which may (or may not) take place at my old alma mater. It could result in a true verbal eruption in this space, or it may just pass. In the meantime here's something I read about in one of our local papers. I wasn't there, so I'll try hard to not add to the story.

If you know where to look in the local paper, you could find a game, a meet or an athletic event of some kind to watch almost every day, particularly if there are several high schools in the area. There's no guarantee that any of these events will include anything you haven't seen before, but once in awhile, life can throw out some real curve balls, pardon the figure of speech.
Not long ago, a softball team (this means girls, you know) from a rather distant city came to our area for a double header against one of the local high school outfits. I don't know how these two teams were scheduled, but on this day the visitors found themselves in big trouble right away. The home team's hitting, pitching and fielding were all superior, resulting in a 22-1 hammering even with the use of a "mercy" rule which ends a game early if the margin between the teams is great enough. That would have been bad enough, but the visitors had only brought one pitcher, and it was her task to try to improve things in the second game. On top of all this, she was asthmatic, and the pollen can get thick around here in March.
Game two was no improvement on the opener. The pitcher found it harder to throw strikes, and the ones she did manage were whacked pretty hard around the field. With the score already 15-0 in the first inning, two runners on base and only one out, the coach of the visitors became aware that his pitcher had started to cry. He called a timeout and gathered his entire team around the pitcher in an effort to give the 16 year-old hurler a chance to regain her
composure. After a few minutes, the coach turned to go back to the bench, but heard sobs again before crossing the base line. He reversed his course back to the mound, looked over the situation, then called an umpire over and said a few words before turning with his pitcher, not back to the bench, but on a long stroll out towards left field. Game over. The teams gave each other a cheer and were joined by the 50 or so family and friends on hand to watch. The visitors waited while the coach and pitcher continued their conference in the outfield, which was unhurried.
When we call on young people to perform as athletes, they don't always perform with great strength or speed, but they do their best to retain whatever emotions they may be feeling at the time until the game, the match, the race is completed. However, on rare occasions, life intrudes just enough to remind us that the kids we're rooting for are still works in progress, not quite ready for all the bumps that life deals out. Good luck to that visiting team. Let's hope they have another pitcher on the roster, that they take advantage of upcoming chances to put up "W"'s, and that the trip home had a few laughs to go along with the tears. And hats off to the coach who put the welfare of his players first in what must have been a tough situation.


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