I witnessed some incredible leadership last week at my son’s youth baseball game.
My son plays in a division of 9 and 10 year olds and this is the first year the kids are doing the pitching themselves rather than using a pitching machine or having the coaches pitch.
This can be a tough age to watch. The pace of the game slows considerably because the pitching is not as consistent as when the machine or the coaches do it. There can sometimes be a lot of walks and sometimes you can only get through three or four innings in two hours. But it is part of the process for them to learn.
It is also difficult to umpire at this age. You have to have a big enough strike zone to help out the pitcher while also being fair to the batter and not force him to swing at pitches that he can’t even touch with his bat.
Most of the time the games are umpired by kids who are about 12-14 years old. This means they are only a couple years older than the players but they are a lot younger than the coaches.
Last week the umpire behind the plate was doing a good job. Which means he was making the calls loud enough so the fans could hear, which is something that doesn’t always happen.
At one point a batter from the opposing team popped a foul ball up right behind home plate. The catcher turned around and made an amazing catch...after the ball bounced off the backstop. The umpire made the call...OUT!
Some of the opposing fans started to yell that it hit the backstop and the first base coach came walking toward the plate yelling that the ball hit the backstop. The umpire calmly said, “Sir, don’t argue with me.” The coach continued to yell but turned around and went back to his position.
The other coach from the opposing team called timeout and walked calmly toward home plate and our coach also started walking out from the dugout. The umpire asked if both coaches agreed that the player should not be out. After they agreed he said to bring the batter back up and then he said loud enough for everyone to hear and with great sincerity, “I’m sorry everyone. I’m sorry.”
What responsibility! What courage! What integrity!
To be fair, I do not know for sure whether the opposing coach who got upset made an apology to the umpire, but I do know that he did not make a public apology to the spectators like the umpire did.
That young man who was umpiring understood that what was right was more important than who was right. The right thing to do was to correct his mistake and he went a step further than most people would and apologized.
He gained instant credibility and respect with the people who were watching the game. Long-time University of North Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith said there are four things you do with a mistake: recognize it, admit it, learn from it, and forget about it. I’m pretty sure that young man nailed the first three and I hope he continues to do his best and learn from his mistakes.
Some people think that a person’s power, position, or title make everything they do right. I believe that doing the right thing should be the requirement to earn and keep a person’s power, position, or title. Because what is right is more important than who is right.
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