Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Baseball Builds Character

"Sport, properly directed, develops character, makes a man courageous, a generous loser, and a gracious victor; it refines the senses, gives intellectual penetration, and steels the will to endurance. It is not merely a physical development then. Sport, rightly understood, is an occupation of the whole man, and while perfecting the body as an instrument of the mind, it also makes the mind itself a more refined instrument for the search and communication of truth and helps man to achieve that end to which all others must be subservient, the service and praise of his Creator." (Pope Pius XII, "Sport at the Service of the Spirit," July 29, 1945)

We're into May, and for many of us that is a very busy time. It is also often a trying time for an umpire. High school and college teams are fighting to advance in their post-season tournaments and players, coaches, and fans expect the officiating to be perfect, or at least perfectly in their favor.

Last night my partner behind the plate was not perfect. He struggled with consistency and both teams were not bashful in showing their displeasure. Late in the game there was a play at third and I punched out the runner. The third base coach, already frustrated with my partner, came unglued. I calmly explained that the runner was tagged on the shoulder as he attempted to go around the tag and reach for the base with his hand. The coach contended that the runner reached the bag with his foot. After some discussion I returned to my position and the game continued, although the base coach continued to jaw about the play with his bench coaches. The third out was quickly made.

So I'm in the outfield grass watching the coaches and fuming and deciding which coach to send to the parking lot as they continue to discuss the "crap call" and the "horrible umpires" in the dugout. As I walk to my position to begin the inning, the first baseman quietly says, "Good call blue. I was out."

I swear I almost fell over. That kid's simple honesty hit me like a ton of bricks.

"Thanks. I appreciate that."

The pitch was called a ball and the coaches grumbled some more.

"That shows real character," I told him.

Well, we survived the game and no one was dumped. I think the final score was 8 to 4 or something and the honest kid's team lost. I can't help but think that someone in that kid's life was doing something right. Maybe it was his mouthy coaches. Maybe his parents or teachers. I dunno, but it reminded me that the game of baseball is teaching these kids, and like or not they are watching and learning all the time. Last night's game, with all of its frustration and poor sportsmanship, gave one kid an opportunity to demonstrate the virtues of honesty and generosity.

Baseball is a great game.

1 comment:

dcteater said...

Excellent observation. Well written and inspirational to me personally.

Thanks for a great read.

Dave Teater