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Seeing How the Game is Played

Brandon Dyce

Sara didn’t see the ball roar into the strike zone, nor did she see it fire off her bat. But she felt it; and when she did, Sara knew the ball was gone. A senior at Western Oregon University, playing for the school’s first trip to the playoffs, Sara Tucholsky hit the first homerun of her softball career. She took off around the bases as the shot cleared the centerfield wall. As she rounded first, she overstepped the bag and turned to go back for fear of being called out. That’s when her knee gave way, and Sara crumpled to the ground.

Mallory, who was playing first base for the opposing team, Central Washington University, didn’t see Sara fall. She was focused on the ball and on winning her school’s first trip to the playoffs. When she turned around, Mallory Holtman noticed Sara lying in a heap, crying in pain. She also saw the coaches and umpires trying to decide what to do. Replacing Sara with a pinch runner would reduce her homerun to a single, and allowing Sara’s team to carry her off the field would constitute an automatic out. No one was sure what to do—until Mallory had an idea.

 

Asking a Simple Question

devozine sportsmanship photo SMAfter she fell, Sara could think of nothing but the pain in her leg. She wasn’t sure what the CWU first baseman and shortstop wanted as they approached. They introduced themselves and asked, “Can we carry you?” Sara nodded, “Yes.”

So Mallory and her teammate Liz Wallace cradled Sara in a fireman’s carry, and the three players went slowly around the horn. Mallory and Liz stopped to let Sara touch each bag. The girls giggled as they made their collective homerun march, wondering what they must look like from the bleachers.

With Sara finally across home plate and back with her team, the cheering crowd quieted and the game resumed. “It didn’t register with me until I reached the dugout,” said Sara; but she knew that what had happened was amazing.

Without knowing it, Mallory, her school’s career homerun leader, had helped Sara keep the one and only homerun of her career. This experience drove home for Sara the importance of the “little things you can do for others without knowing what kind of impact they will have.”

 

Looking Beyond the Scoreboard

devozine sportsmanship 2 SMMallory’s idea to carry Sara came naturally. Her philosophy is “when someone’s down, you help them up.” Even though the homerun could affect the outcome of the game and her team’s trip to the playoffs, she approached the umpires and coaches with her plan. When they agreed, she asked Sara’s permission.

“Walking slowly around those bases, we felt like we were in a bubble; we started laughing,” Mallory says.

Their laughter, however, wasn’t audible above the cheers. By now, the game was about much more than the final score, which was yet to be determined.

The homerun trot occurred in the top of the second inning. After nine, Mallory’s Central Washington Wildcats had lost 2–4. Sara’s homerun wasn’t the decisive blow, but it made a difference.

“Twenty years down the road, you won’t remember the scores; but you will remember the relationships. They go way beyond winning,” Mallory says. “There are things a lot bigger than scores.”

 

Changing the Game

When it happened, Sara and Mallory didn’t see what the big deal was about. Sara had been coached to be a good player and also a good person; Mallory maintains that she only wanted to do the right thing. That’s probably how, at the top of the second inning on a sunny day in April, Sara and Mallory unintentionally changed the perception of how you play the game—for all those who were watching and for hundreds more who would hear their story.

 

DIG DEEPER

How do you play the game? Sara says that players should never do anything out of character and should stay true to who they are both on and off the field. Mallory believes that actions in a game go way beyond the field. The next time you’re playing sports, before the first pitch or the opening kickoff, say a prayer that your actions during the game will reflect your true character and the true spirit of God’s love.

 

Watch a home video taken by a parent in the stands that day, and check out a news video of Sara and Mallory being interviewed about this amazing act of good sportsmanship.

 

Brandon Dyce has a desk job from 9 to 5; but after work he plays volleyball, kickball, and tennis in rec leagues with his friends. He also enjoys walking from his Chicago apartment to sit on the Lake Michigan beach, where most of his writing gets done!

—from devozine (November/December 2008). Copyright © 2008 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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