Holland & Usry July 2018

After the Final Pitch A TRUE EXAMPLE OF SPORTSMANSHIP

When you hear about a hitter rushing the mound or a pitcher rushing the batter’s box, you expect it to end in a fracas. I saw a video the other day where this trend was turned on its head. When somebody sent it to me, I didn’t know what to expect. After watching it, I walked away inspired. The video covers the final at-bat of a Minnesota high school baseball game between Mounds View and Totino-Grace. The game was a section championship to decide which team would advance in the state baseball tournament. Mounds View pitcher Ty Koehn worked a shutout through the entire game. The last batter he faced was his childhood friend, Jack Kocon. Koehn struck out Kocon, sealing the victory for Mounds View. But it’s what happened after that final swing and miss that made the video a viral sensation. Instead of jubilantly celebrating the vanquishment of his opponents, Koehn made a beeline for the batter’s box. As the Mounds View players stormed the field to embrace each other, Koehn decided to embrace his friend. “I knew the game was going to keep going, or it was going to end right there,” Koehn said. “I knew I had to say something. Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game. I had to make sure he knew that before we celebrated.” Can you believe that? What a display of sportsmanship. In our increasingly divided and fractious times, the video serves as a reminder that what we have in common is much more powerful than what divides us. No matter which team you play for, no matter what your worldview is, we all appreciate a little kindness. Koehn understood that the battle between teams was less important than his connection to his buddy. Talk about a young man who is mature beyond his years!

In fact, Koehn’s behavior reminds me of the words from the Declaration of Independence that are now known as the American creed. Those words, written by Thomas Jefferson, read as follows: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. No matter where we come from, what we believe in, or who we voted for, as Americans, we remain committed to the principle that we are still equal. Having the ability to show humility in victory and grace in defeat shows that there are values more important than competition. Camaraderie and compassion go a long way in life. Sports, at their best, are a chance for grand human qualities to be displayed on a large scale. Usually, those qualities include perseverance, determination, and selflessness. After the final whistle, we often see a mix of despair and elation. But to see a moment of pure, unbridled kindness between two friends on opposite teams was a breath of fresh air. As you celebrate the Fourth of July this year, remember we are all cut from the same cloth. Being generous to your friends, relatives, neighbors, and even the random stranger on the street shouldn’t be considered exceptional behavior. Let’s work to make it the norm. –Rob Usry

Koehn understood that the battle between teams was less important than his connection to his buddy. Talk about a young man who is mature beyond his years!

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