Sara Tucholsky of Western Oregon University took a mighty cut and lofted her first high school/college homerun over the centerfield fence. She was a senior and it was likely that it would be her last home run as well. She was not a power hitter.
As she rounded first, she realized in her glee that she missed the based. She stopped and turned to tag the bag, so she would not be called out. A sharp pain in her knee brought her to the ground. She crawled back to first, but could not finish the victory trot around the bases.
The coach called time out. The umpire said that she would have to either make it around the bases on her own power or she would be officially given a single, disqualifying Sara’s one and only home run. If any of Tucholsky’s teammates helped, she would be called out.
To everyone’s surprise, the opponent’s first baseman, Mallory Holtman, asked the umpire if the opposing players could assist Tucholsky around the bases. The umpire said there was no rule against it, so Holtman, homerun leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, and her teammate, shortstop Liz Wallace, carried Tucholsky around the bases, allowing her to touch each base with her uninjured toe before preceding to the next.
By the time they reached home plate the entire Western Oregon team was in tears, as were most of the spectators in the stands. It cost Central Washington the game and ended their chances of winning the conference and advancing to the playoffs.
No one will remember who won the tournament or the conference. Few of us will ever be devoted fans of Central Washington or Western Oregon, but everyone will remember the sportsmanship, camaraderie amongst competitors and the good feeling that comes from doing what is right.
I don’t know where Holtman and Wallace are today, but I hope they are somehow being rewarded for their integrity. I don’t know if Central Washington coach Gary Frederick is still at Central Washington, but if he is, I want my kids and everyone else’s kids to try out for his team. He’s doing something right.