Sunday, May 04, 2008

Unusual umpire appearance on ESPN

I hadn't seen the actual people involved in the wonderful story of sportsmanship that transpired in a critical college softball matchup between Central Washington and Western Oregon last week. (And seriously, if you haven't seen or heard about it, check out the ESPN tear-jerking video.) So I stayed up an extra few minutes to check it out, see the players involved, etc.

I expected to see Sara Tucholsky, the injured hitter, and Mallory Holtman, the wonderful star player whose idea it was to help her.

Surprise! One of the principals they interviewed was the umpire.

Jacob McChesney said the following:

"When [Tucholsky] got back to first base, she just...she laid there, and she hugged onto first base, and then, at that time I was staring at the base, and I go 'what on earth are we gonna do?'"

Interesting. With gag rules and such, I was surprised to see the Great Northwest Conference would have McChesney speak.

Of course, I started looking at it from an umpiring perspective--how tough it must have been to enforce what appeared to be a horribly unfair rule, but how impressive it was that McChesney and his crewmates did that anyway--and how marvelous it was that Central's players prevented that from happening.

But it wasn't just Tucholsky's home run that Holtman and her teammates saved. It was the umpiring crew's bacon.

See, it turns out that a pinch-runner would have been allowed to round the bases to finish Tucholsky's home run. The umpiring supervisor clarified that later.

I'm not going to harp on the umpires for the mistake--that's not what I do here. After all, I can't think of another instance in the thousands of ballgames I've watched where a player who has hit a ball over the fence has been unable to finish his or her home run trot due to injury. So I can see where this rule might have slipped through the cracks into the "well, we'll never see that happen" category.

So it serves as a good reminder to have a 100% solid grasp on every aspect of every rule, no matter how bizarre.

But it's a little strange to see the umpire in the piece. I guess I like it--anything that humanizes a sports official is good by me.

Still, I think I join sports officials everywhere in THANKING Holtman for her classy move. Without it, Western Oregon possibly loses the game and their NCAA regional tournament bid...due to an umpire misapplication of a rule. THANK YOU for not allowing that to happen, Ms. Holtman.


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