Graceball

Maybe you’ve already heard about this, but already this morning three people asked me if I’d seen the story about the Division II’s girl’s softball game that took place in the state of Washington.

 

It’s a really good grace story.

 

Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky had never hit a home run in her career… until this game.

 

Opposing team Central Washington had a stand-out senior of their own.  Unlike her Oregon’s Sara Tucholsky, Mallory Holtman held her school’s record in home runs.  But fate would bring them together in this game in an unusual way.

 

It was a must win situation for Western Oregon when Sara Tucholsky steps up to the plate in the top of the second inning with two runners on base and the game still scoreless.

 

After taking a first pitch strike, Sara recalls not knowing where the second pitch was—but that she just remembers hitting it—and she knew immediately that she had gone yard.

 

Hitting your first college career home run would have been enough of a story for Sara and her teammates.  But that’s not going to make national news.  What happens next is the real story.

 

With unsurprising excitement, the petite 5-2 (not-know-for-being-a slugger) rounded first during her home run trot and missed tagging the base.  With a history of knee trouble, she doubled back to make the tag count, and her knee gave out, leaving her to crumble into a painful pile near first base—while the two teammates she pushed around the diamond joyously crossed home.

 

As such, the rules state that if a player cannot make the trip around the bases on their own power, the run will not count.  Sara’s first base coach knew that her only options would be to take an out, or be replaced with a pinch runner—only to have her home run be turned into a two-run single.

 

And that’s when Sara and her coach heard these words from opposing team Central Washington’s Mallory Holtman: “Excuse me, would it be okay if we carried her around and touched each bag?”  Apparently there wasn’t a rule against this.  But who ever would have thought there needed to be?

 

And so Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Tucholsky off the ground and supported her weight between them as they began a slow trip around the bases, stopping at each one so Tucholsky’s left foot could make contact with each marker.

 

Accompanied by a standing ovation from the fans, the trio finally reached home plate and passed the home run hitter into the arms of her own teammates.

 

Then Holtman and Wallace returned to their positions and tried to win the game—a game they would ultimately lose 4-2. 

 

Following the game, Western Oregon’s coach Pam Knox was quoted as saying: “It was such a lesson that we learned—that it’s not all about winning.  And we never forget that, because as coaches, we’re always trying to get to the top.  We forget that. But I will never forget this moment.  It’s changed me, and I’m sure it’s changed my players.”

 

That’s because grace does change people.  And it’s the only thing that can change a person’s heart.

  

For the whole story go to: http://sports.espn.go.com/ncaa/columns/story?columnist=hays_graham&id=3372631

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