All three of my children came up through the ranks of our community's local ball fields where my two sons played baseball and my daughter played softball.
As a family, we spent countless hours at the fields. My wife and I would at times pace back and forth between fields where one of ours might have been up at bat on one, while one played outfield on the other.
We were usually pretty mild parents during these games. Sure, we got excited and cheered enthusiastically, celebrating victories and dealing with defeats. But we tried to keep things in perspective, encouraging our sons and daughter to be competitive and do their best, but to have fun and enjoy the game. We tried to do that too, and I have great memories of those summer nights at the ball fields, where we enjoyed watching the games, eating dinners from the concession stand and getting to know other families.
For the most part, I liked the coaches who volunteered their time to coach the young players. There were some who were over-zealous and some who, in my opinion, put way too much emphasis on winning, but I always thought that, unless they were doing something abusive to my son or daughter, they were above my criticism. After all, they were the ones doing the coaching, not me (for good reason, but that’s another story).
I also tried to observe appropriate decorum with the umpires. Calling baseball games, especially at the adolescent level, is not an exact science and the officiating is, of course, conducted by imperfect human beings. Mistakes are made. It’s disappointing when it happens but it’s not the end of the world.
There were a few paid adult umpires, as well as young folks who would, at about age 13, begin calling games for some of the younger players' games. Unfortunately, some of the parents were just plain awful to the umpires, including to the young ones were trying to learn and make some money. And this unfortunately included some verbal attacks on my two boys who served as umpires for a few games.
I was never there when it happened to them, but if I had been, chances are I would have broken my self-imposed rule of not making a scene at the baseball field. It’s bad enough to go off on an umpire at a child’s baseball game, but it’s inexcusable when that umpire is also a child. But it happened and it happened too often.
With those memories still fresh, it was with great interest that I read the story recently about the pitcher for the Detroit Tigers who was one out away from pitching a perfect game. Alas, the last base runner was called safe. The replay clearly showed he was out. It was a bad call. Not the first one ever made, but one with dire consequences.
What ensued after that bad call, however, is a great lesson to all of us.
The umpire, Jim Joyce, apologized. He owned up to his mistake.
The pitcher, Armando Galarraga, was, of course, devastated. But he seemed to take it in stride and there was no big scene afterward.
The next day, however, told the story of the character of each of these men. They met at home plate and shook hands. Joyce had to wipe back tears. The Detroit fans cheered.
Mistakes happen. Some have more serious consequences than others. But they happen, whether at the community ballpark near Nashville or at a Major League game in Detroit or wherever. Perfection will always elude us, whether it’s on a baseball diamond, in school or at work.
Of course it’s how we deal with a mistake -- whether we’re the one making it or suffering the consequences of one made by another -- that will define us. We can brood and throw tantrums, or we can apologize and forgive.
And now we can take our cues from two guys in Detroit who handled themselves with great class.