Over this past weekend, when I was in Hollywood, Florida, (yes, we have one, too) for a prestigious 12 and under baseball tournament, I witnessed the greatest act of sportsmanship EVER, by a group of ball players who had just lost to my son’s team.
To set the stage:
The competition was fierce, with seven teams flying in from California and another coming in from Houston. Not to mention the stellar teams from Miami and other areas of Florida, including Tampa.
Anyway, we didn’t play well in our first two games, so we faced a team who did (an 0-2 team versus a 2-0 team). This team, the SY TITANS out of Santa Ynez, California, happened to be the #5 ranked team in the country, and so, our backs were against the wall when my son, Frank, took the hill.
The battle was on when we took a 2-0 lead in the first. They responded with a run of their own, along with great defense and pitching, robbing us of runs that were a sure thing against most teams.
At the bottom of the 5th inning, we appeared to have a commanding 5-2 lead. Then my friend, Woody, who was sitting next to me in the 40 degree weather, jinxed my son by saying, “Well, it looks like you guys are in total control.”
“Don’t say that,” I said. “The score can change really fast in this game.”
Two seconds later, an SY Titans player slammed a 2-run shot, making it a one-run ball game.
In the sixth we added another insurance run, then brought in our closer, who punched out three batters with runners on 2nd and 3rd.
We won, 6-5 and what a thrill ’twas.
After my wife and I hugged and high-5’d each other, I fist bumped other parents and fans.
And then the SHOCK of MY LIFE.
The SY TITANS walked before our parents and fans and clapped for us, celebrating our victory with us, telling us congratulations, and much more.
Naaah, this can’t be happening. This isn’t something out of a movie. This isn’t even real life – as far as I knew it, and I’ve competed all over the country and world. The highest form of sportsmanship I ever witnessed was a handshake from your typically disgruntled opponent.
Yet, here was a group of 12-year old lads who weren’t taking their defeat the way so many youngsters do today. They were letting their pain of loss go by celebrating for the team who won.
As I left the ball park, several parents came up and congratulated the efforts of my son. They told me how they wish they didn’t have to face him.
I then told this team what I’m telling you now: “In all my life I’ve never seen such magnanimous sportsmanship. Unlike so many of the teams I’ve seen, who curse and scream at the umpires after a loss (coaches as well as players), this team separated themselves from the masses.
No, they didn’t win the game – but they won my respect and admiration – and that doesn’t come easily. It must be earned.
In Florida, we don’t play teams from California very often – but I can tell you, I really hope we play the SY TITANS again, not just because they’re a superb team, but because win or lose, they’re a team with tremendous class.
They know how to let losses go and move on to the bigger picture, being professional human beings.
One parent told me that this type of sportsmanship is how they end games in California. If that’s really true, I’d love to see it catch hold in other states.
Give it all you’ve got – then let the wins and losses go. Move on to the next practice, the next game, the next opportunity to showcase your team’s skills – then rinse and repeat, over and over again.
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