My daughter’s softball team won their first game all season on Tuesday night. There was a lot of rejoicing, high-fives and chest bumps. The girls were excited, too. It was an away game and on the adjacent field I saw the team we’d be facing tonight. The players looked huge, even from a distance, and the pitcher intimidating: she threw fast and accurately.
That team thumped us tonight. And that really wasn’t so terrible, in and of itself. They had at least two girls who were older than the rest and probably were filling in for players who couldn’t make it. (Last spring, we had older girls.) The pitcher was good. We didn’t get a base runner until she–and her replacement–came out.
As the visiting team, we sat on the third base side. And got to listen to the other team’s third base coach aggressively manage the running game. I can understand sending runners the first two innings of a game, just to get a feel for the opponent and take advantage of any jitters. But each and every inning ended with the mercy rule: the other team scored five runs. And the coach was just as aggressive in the first inning as he was in the fourth, when he was up by 15 runs and it was pretty obvious there was no way we could come back and win. And when I mean aggressive, I mean he sent runners for extra bases on every single overthrow and error our team made (again, when he was up by 15 runs) and got angry when his players didn’t follow his direction.
It was difficult to watch as a parent, not because of the losing but because of the lack of sportsmanship. It’s an educational league. A W is a W. You don’t get super secret bonus runs for triggering the mercy rule.
But our team never gave up. The third-string pitcher wasn’t nearly as intimidating, and the girls started to hit. And it turned out the other team was capable of making throwing and fielding errors too. My daughter hit the ball two feet in front of the plate and not only was she safe on an overthrow, she knocked in a run. The girls, who never stopped chanting, shouting out cheers and supporting their teammates, loaded the bases and kept on fighting. It would have been understandable if they were sullen or sarcastic. (I, on the other hand, was acting like a cast member for a new reality show called Softball Moms.) Two of the girls got hurt and stayed in the game.
I’m proud of the girls and for the coaches who instilled those values in our players. And I promise to be a better sport the next time we play this team.