The baseball season had been a trying one. The team was talented, but like all teams they had a number of strengths and more than a few weaknesses. It is what makes high school sports so appealing. Many times, in the season which lingered just above a .500 mark, results were determined by the intangible factors of motivation and effort which cannot be quantified.
So it was with this team. They battled hard all season and squeaked into the last playoff spot in the district.
The best pitcher on the team got the nod to throw the playoff game. He was short, wiry and as competitive as anyone who ever put on cleats. He was also a quiet leader of the team, who led with sweat and grit, not with words.
He pitched a nice game, start to finish. However, he was not a dominating pitcher. All of his pitches were good, but none were overwhelming. He needed to place the ball, out-think the hitters, and he needed defense behind him.
The playoff game was close with the opponents taking a late two-run lead in a low-scoring game.
No one was too worried, for the pitcher’s side had scored a number of wins with a run or two in the late innings. This night, it just didn’t happen. The pitcher recorded a loss. There were no late-inning heroics. The opposing side had held their two run advantage. The season ended.
As is customary, the coach circled his team in the outfield and had a chat about baseball and how to apply the lessons of baseball to life. The team, obviously dejected at the loss, listened.
After the talk, and as the team began to collect their gear from the dugout, the pitcher sat on the bench. He just sat there. The coach walked up to him, placed his hand on the starter’s shoulder and simply said, “I am proud of you my boy.”
(Editor’s note: Monitor sports correspondent John Arbter doesn’t have much to cover these days, so he’s going into the archives and sharing some observations from his beat.)