The Right Fielder
There was a deep fly ball to right field. The batter had hit it well, but not quite solidly enough to get it over the fence. I watched the action as an umpire -- the only one on the field during a slowpitch softball tournament game. There was a runner on third base and there was only one out. I heard the third base coach tell the runner to take his time. Why would a coach ever tell a baserunner that?
He told him to take his time because the ball was so well hit. And the coach told the runner to take his time because the right fielder had only one arm. That arm, of course, had a glove on it. I watched the outfielder catch the ball and the runner tag up at third. I expected there would be no play at home, but I positioned myself in case just in case there would be one.
The outfielder caught the ball in his glove, flipped the ball into the air while in the same motion throwing his glove to the ground. He grabbed the ball out of midair and again in a single motion threw it towards home plate. The ball shot towards the catcher like a missile. The runner did not even bother to slide. It would have done him no good. The catcher was waiting with the ball. The runner was out by so far that he could have just as well been in the next state. He easily became the third out.
The team in the field was made up of young players, former baseball players, who were involved in their first year of softball. They had talent, but they had a lot to learn. They were sorely lacking in experience.
The team at bat was a veteran team. Their talent was evident in a rich history of success in the sport. They had made a number of appearances in state tournaments. To say that they had been heavily favored in this game was a given. As good as they were, the arrow thrown by the one-armed outfielder took something out of them. At the same time, it added a lot to the attitudes of his young teammates.
The youngsters won the game comfortably in a huge upset. No one ran on the right fielder for the rest of the tournament. I heard coaches giving instructions before games that always included the words, "Don't run on the right fielder."
The young outfielder went on to much success in softball. It was an honor and a pleasure for me to often play on the same team with the remarkable young man. He was never what you would call a power hitter. Home runs were not what he brought to the team. He was a line drive hitter. He was a pesky hitter. He was the kind who always came up with the big hit-the hit that would win games. He was the kind of whom it was said that he always brought his glove to the game. He was a gifted defensive player- a gift that was given after much hard work and concentration.
Becoming a good player had not been a simple task for the right fielder. He was born with only one arm. It would have been easy for someone so interested in sports, as the young outfielder was, to feel a lot of anger and self-pity. He could have occupied a seat on the bench and asked himself, "Why me?" over and over again. He could have, but he did not.
He not only played, he played well. He was a leader and was named team captain. He kept the team loose. He was able to joke about his missing arm like another would joke about his bald head. He admits that he did not get much sympathy, but that was just the way he wanted it. He did not ask nor desire any sympathy.
He had an inner strength that would not allow him to quit. When he set his mind to something, he accomplished his goal. He said often that he was not handicapped- far from it, he was blessed.
He felt truly blessed because he was able to play a game that he loved. He has done well in life. Maybe his experiences in the game of softball helped him to be successful in other areas of life?
Everything we have done in life brings us to the place where we are. I try always to remember the lesson the young ballplayer taught me. So whenever I begin to think that the cards are stacked against me; whenever I begin to feel that I am not going to be able to do what I need to do; I remember these words.
"Don't run on the right fielder."