Act Of Sportsmanship
Sara Tucholsky, a senior at Western Oregon University with a .153 career batting average, came to the plate in the top of the second inning with two runners on base. Tucholsky did something she had never done, in high school or college, she hit her first home run. Tucholsky excitedly sprinted to first base as the ball cleared the center field fence. She was so excited at hitting her first home run, she missed first base.
While she was doubling back to tag first base, Tucholsky’s right knee gave out. She was able crawl back to first but that was as much as she could do.
Western coach Pam Knox rushed onto the field and talked to the umpires. The umpires informed her that the only option available under the rules was to replace Tucholsky at first base with a pinch runner and have the hit recorded as a two-run single instead of a three-run home run. Any assistance from coaches or trainers while she was an active runner would result in an out.
“The umpires said a player cannot be assisted by their team around the bases,” Knox said. “But it is her only home run in four years. She is going to kill me if we sub and take it away. But at same time I was concerned for her. I didn’t know what to do.”
So without any options, Knox prepared to make the substitution, taking Tucholsky only home run away.
“And right then,” Knox said, “I heard, ‘Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'” The voice belonged to Central Washington first baseman Mallory Holtman, the career home run leader in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The umpires said there was nothing in the rule book which precluded help from the opposition. So Holtman and shortstop Liz Wallace lifted Tucholsky off the ground and supported her weight between them as they began a slow trip around the bases, stopping at each one so Tucholsky’s left foot could touch the base.
“We started laughing when we touched second base,” Holtman said. “I said, ‘I wonder what this must look like to other people.”‘ Holtman got her answer as they arrived at home plate. Accompanied by a standing ovation from the fans when they reached home plate, they passed Tucholsky to her waiting teammates.
The home run help send Western Oregon on its way to a 4-2 victory, ending Central Washington’s chances of winning the conference and advancing to the playoffs.
“In the end, it is not about winning and losing so much,” Holtman said. “It was about this girl. She hit it over the fence and was in pain and she deserved a home run.”
Holtman believes sports has made her a better person. “This is a huge experience I will take away. We are not going to remember if we won or lost, we are going to remember this kind of stuff that shows the character of our team. It is the best group of girls I’ve played with. I came up with the idea but any girl on team would have done it.”