This is true sportsman(woman)ship (1 Viewer)


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I read this in the Oregonian this morning, and even a cynical b*stard like myself was touched.

Opponents carry injured hitter around the bases to ensure her first-ever home run

Gary Frederick thought he had seen everything in 40 years at Central Washington University. He'd coached baseball and women's basketball for 11 years, been an assistant on the football team for 17 and athletic director for 18.

Last weekend, he learned he was wrong.

In the top of the second inning as his Wildcats played host to Western Oregon University in Ellensburg, Wash., something happened that spoke to the beauty of athletics. It came in the form of a home run that no one in attendance will forget.

"Never in my life had I seen anything like it," said Frederick, 70, in his 14th season as softball coach.

"It was just unbelievable."

Central entered Saturday's doubleheader one game behind Western Oregon in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference race. At stake was a bid to the NCAA's Division II playoffs. Western won the first game 8-1, extending its winning streak to 10 games. Central desperately needed the second game to keep its postseason hopes alive.

Western Oregon's 5-foot-2-inch right fielder came up to bat with two runners on base in the second inning. Sara Tucholsky's game was off to a rough start. A group of about eight guys sitting behind the right field fence had been heckling her.

"They were giving me a pretty hard time," said Tucholsky, a Forest Grove High School graduate. "They were just being boys, trying to get in my head."

At the plate, Tucholsky concentrated on ignoring the wise guys. She took strike one. And then the senior did something she had never done before -- even in batting practice. The career .153 hitter smashed the next pitch over the center field fence for an apparent three-run home run.

The exuberant former high school point guard sprinted to first. As she reached the bag, she looked up to watch the ball clear the fence and missed first base. Six feet past the bag, she stopped abruptly to return and touch it. But something gave in her right knee; she collapsed on the base path.

"I was in a lot of pain," she told The Oregonian on Tuesday. "Our first-base coach was telling me I had to crawl back to first base. 'I can't touch you,' she said, 'or you'll be out. I can't help you.' "

Tucholsky, to the horror of teammates and spectators, crawled through the dirt and the pain back to first.

Western coach Pam Knox rushed onto the field and talked to the umpires near the pitcher's mound. The umpires said Knox could place a substitute runner at first. Tucholsky would be credited with a single and two RBIs, but her home run would be erased.

"The umpires said a player cannot be assisted by their team around the bases," Knox said. "But it is her only home run in four years. She is going to kill me if we sub and take it away. But at same time I was concerned for her. I didn't know what to do. . . .

"That is when Mallory stepped in."

Mallory Holtman is the greatest softball player in Central Washington history. Normally when the conference's all-time home run leader steps up to the plate, Pam Knox and other conference coaches grimace.

But on senior day, the first baseman volunteered a simple, selfless solution to her opponents' dilemma: What if the Central Washington players carried Tucholsky around the bases?

The umpires said nothing in the rule book precluded help from the opposition. Holtman asked her teammate junior shortstop and honors program student Liz Wallace of Florence, Mont., to lend a hand. The teammates walked over and picked up Tucholsky and resumed the home-run walk, pausing at each base to allow Tucholsky to touch the bag with her uninjured leg.

"We started laughing when we touched second base," Holtman said. "I said, 'I wonder what this must look like to other people.' "

Holtman got her answer when they arrived at home plate. She looked up and saw the entire Western Oregon team in tears.

"My whole team was crying," Tucholsky said. "Everybody in the stands was crying. My coach was crying. It touched a lot of people."

Even the hecklers in right field quieted for a half-inning before resuming their tirade at the outfielder who replaced Tucholsky.

Western Oregon won the game 4-2 and extinguished Central Washington's playoff hopes.

Afterward, Central coach Frederick said he received a clarification from the umpiring supervisor, who said NCAA rules allow a substitute to run for a player who is injured after a home run. The clarification, however, could not diminish he glory of Holtman's and Wallace's gesture. Holtman downplayed her role, which her coach said is typical of the White Salmon, Wash. native.

"In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much," Holtman said. "It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain and she deserved a home run. . . .

"This is a huge experience I will take away. We are not going to remember if we won or lost, we are going to remember this kind of stuff that shows the character of our team. It is the best group of girls I've played with. I came up with the idea, but any girl on the team would have done it."

Tucholsky went to the doctor Tuesday. Her knee was still swollen; her trainer suspects she tore her anterior cruciate ligament. She will be in the dugout this weekend when Western Oregon attempts to cement an NCAA berth with games against Seattle and Western Washington.

Tucholsky will graduate this spring as a business major with a minor in health. She plans to continue her studies at Portland State and pursue a career in the health field. But she will never forget the generosity of her opponents in her final collegiate game.

"Those girls did something awesome to help me get my first home run," she said. "It makes you look at athletes in a different way. It is not always all about winning but rather helping someone in a situation like that."

Holtman knows something of knee injuries. On May 8, she is scheduled to have arthroscopic surgery on both knees, which have pained her all season. On June 7, she will graduate with a degree in business. She intends to study sports administration in graduate school at Central Washington.

Holtman believes sports has made her a better person.

She wants to give back.

Mallory Holtman plans to do that by becoming a coach.
This is a great story. I saw it on espn's webpage a few days ago then our lcoal news did a little bit on it last night. Very cool
Saw the report on Fox along with an interview with the injured player, as well as a photo of her opponents carrying her around the bases. Was moved nearly to tears.
I saw that this morning on the local Fox news. That was awesome!

Now, the flip side......a 12 year old player (male) from Conroe got stabbed over a little league game. Geeze!
Actually, no not really. Oh, sure....some are more intense than others, but we usually just yell at our own kids and not each other, the coaches or the umps. heheh...

Splendora is such a small town and Dean has played with most of the other kids on opposing teams for 8 seasons in our Dixie League. In fact, we all get along so well that we are always chearing for everyone on BOTH teams playing. It's kinda funny....we always talk about how we can't wait until next year so that all our kiddos are playing High School ball together and we don't have to worry about playing AGAINST each other. lol

Although, there is a coach or two I'd like to strangle if I have to listen to them ONE MORE TIME! ;)
I saw that this morning on the local Fox news. That was awesome!

Now, the flip side......a 12 year old player (male) from Conroe got stabbed over a little league game. Geeze!

One of the regular columnists from The Oregonian wrote a nice comparison piece between a women's game versus the men's game, and brought up some valid points.

Women warm the heart; men will stomp on it

B y now, maybe you know that Sara Tucholsky plays right field for the Western Oregon College softball team. And maybe you know that she hit a home run over the fence on Saturday, but tore a ligament in her right knee somewhere around first base, leaving her crawling in the dirt, making it impossible for her to touch the bases.

Maybe you also know that, by rule, she had to crawl back to first base without help. And the umpires ruled a pinch runner could replace her at first base, but that would have left Tucholsky with a two-run single. By now, you probably know that, instead, she was carried around the bases by two Central Washington players on Saturday.

By rule, that's heartwarming.

I think what happened between Western Oregon and Central Washington was special. It was sportsmanlike. It was authentic. Tucholsky earned a home run, and Central Washington gave her what she'd earned. The outcome was just. And right. And national networks are descending upon the campus today to bring a wonderful story to the rest of the country.

Just one question, could this have ever happened in a men's game?

I'm not saying that women are more compassionate than men. I'm not saying that there's a more collective feeling of empathy between fellow female athletes than among their male counterparts, but I challenge you to consider what happened Saturday and not come away believing that there's a fellowship and a spirit that exists between female athletes that doesn't exist with males.

If we're being real, we should all acknowledge that if this were a men's game, at any level, on any field, what we'd have is a pinch runner at first base and nobody thinking twice about what a tough break it was for the batter.

In Little League, we tell boys at the beginning of every season that if they play well enough, and win enough games, and learn enough fundamentals, they'll get an All-Star invitation and a gimcrack trophy.

Girls softball teams have all-star teams, too, but we tell the players that a successful season is learning some fundamentals, and making friends, and maybe, too, learning some dugout cheers, and understanding what it is to be on a team.

The mantra goes, "There's no crying in baseball," yet, here were the Western Oregon teammates watching the scene on Saturday from the dugout with tears streaming down their faces.

High-level female athletes are skilled, and competitive, and fierce, but there's something that happens in women's sports that is purer and truer, and more innocent than what we see in men's athletics. Women keep saying they want their professional sports to be like the ones played by men, but I'm looking at baseball's steroid era, and the NBA's image problem, and a rash of NFL suspensions, and I'm thinking I'd rather the correction came the other way.

Ask sports writers about the best part of covering the WNBA and they'll tell you the athletes are a dream to work with. The basketball isn't as fast or dynamic, and the crowds aren't as large, but the athletes are happy to have coverage, and they're respectful of each other, and they're engaging, and polite, and they're eager to perform well. And the absence of a Y chromosome only begins to explain the differences.

Women who played on the recent Olympic soccer teams will tell you that they believed women from all sports were all in the battle for recognition and respect together. They felt a camaraderie with each other, and I'd argue that the collective feeling of togetherness begins years earlier, when girls playing on youth teams come to understand they're in this together on some level, too.

We don't need men to be like women. Heavens no. But when you look around competitive male sports, what you see is Paul Hamm refusing to give back an Olympic gold medal he didn't deserve in Athens, and the University of Colorado football team refusing to give back a fifth down it didn't deserve. And while there are a load of age-eligibility scandals involving young men, try to find a case of a female athlete trying to cheat the system.

So maybe we need to consider what happened Saturday and ask ourselves if there isn't something here to be learned by all of us about the human condition and how it relates to sport.

They were carrying a wounded opponent, but also, they carried so much more.

Women's athletics tried to teach us all something Saturday about empathy, and conviviality, and nevermind that Central Washington probably cost itself a victory with that trip around the bases, there are some losses you're proud to take.
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