Sara Tucholsky swung and connected. It was a beauty! All the way over the center-field fence! Home run!
What made it even sweeter was that it was her first home run – ever! And it happened at the end of a tough season in her senior year at Western Oregon University. Prior to this swing, she had only connected three times out of 34 at-bats. That’s at least 99 unproductive swings. She was going to enjoy this home run, and it would give the team the numbers they needed to win the conference and go on to the playoffs.
But as Sara rounded first base, she missed the tag. Realizing her mistake, she swung around too quickly and wrenched her knee – most likely a torn ligament. The pain was incredible! It was all she could do to get back to first base. She couldn’t make it the rest of the way.
The umpire shared Sara’s options with her. “You can call in a pinch runner, but then the home run will count as a single. If your teammates try to help you, you’ll be called out.”
First baseman, Mallory Holtman, of the opposing team, witnessed the interaction. Being the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, she sensed the injustice of the situation. And putting aside her own team’s goals, she asked permission to help Sara around the bases.
“Nothing against it in the rules.” the umpire said.
So, Mallory and a teammate picked Sara up and carried her to each of the bases, allowing her to touch them with her good leg before moving on. The home run counted for three of Western Oregon’s four runs in a 4-2 victory over Central Washington University, and it put Central Washington out of the playoffs.
It’s so…what’s the word?…unsportsmanlike. I’ve watched softball games before. The women are often more competitive than the men. Since when would an player give up her chance of a championship in order to help an opposing player complete a home run? I bet her teammates couldn’t wait to give her a swirly back in the lockerroom.
But isn’t it beautiful! What an act of grace! Mallory intentionally gave up her season to do the right thing. That takes courage, the willingness to stand alone and the humility to look like and be treated like a fool.
I believe that anytime you see something like this, a window of heaven has opened up, and you are getting a peek at God’s incredible love for us. Mallory isn’t Jesus; I don’t know if she’s even Christian, but she can be used by God to reflect His Son.
Sara Tucholsky is the Everyman. Striking out time after time; unable to connect with the fame and success that most of us crave. And then her big break – she knocks it out of the park in an important game! But as she heads towards her success, the strain of the effort causes a breakdown. It’s not within her power to get where she wants to go.
This time, her failure is more pronounced. Everyone is watching. Faced with discouraging choices, she’s not sure what to do. But at her moment of greatest need, the one she thought was her enemy becomes her friend. None of Sara’s peers could help her; it had to be someone on another team willing to give up everything in order to get her home.
Images of God are everywhere. We have no excuse.
(S – Associated Press, April 30, 2008, “Opponents Carry Injured Home-Run Hitter Around Bases)