What a pleasant surprise! It was surprising that this happened, but it was also a surprise that it has captured so many people’s attention. In case you missed it, here is what happened.
The first surprise was that Central Washington and Western Oregon universities were playing in April of 2008 for their conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Division II women’s softball tournament. Neither team had ever been in this position before.
The second surprise came when Western Oregon senior Sara Tucholsky hit a homerun – her first ever in high school or college. As the ball cleared the fence, the third surprise occurred. Sara missed first base and turned back to step on the bag. As she turned, the ACL in her right knee tore and she crumpled.
Of course with a homerun, the runner gets a free trot around the bases. Except Sara could not trot. Nor could her teammates go onto the field to assist her. Umpires ruled that the only permissible option would be for Sara to be replaced by a pinch runner at first, reducing her once-in-a-lifetime homer to a single.
Now, the big surprise. Mallory Holtman, a senior who played first base for Central Washington and leads her team in homeruns, asked the umpire if she could assist her opponent. The rules allowed it, so Mallory, risking a conference title and playoff berth, did just that. She and shortstop Liz Wallace carried Sara around the bases, pausing at each so Sara could gingerly “touch ‘em all”.
And touch them all, this did. The crowd gave a standing ovation. The western Oregon team waiting at home plate was in tears. Central Washington coach Gary Frederick called the act of sportsmanship "unbelievable." And the display of selfless sportsmanship touched the hearts of people worldwide.
ESPN's Tom Rinaldi flew to Western Oregon to interview Sara. She appeared with her two helpers on the "Ellen" show. She was invited on stage by Garth Brooks at a concert in Las Vegas (Brooks was crying when he introduced her. "One of my favorite moments," Sara said.) Major League Baseball commissioner Bud Selig made Sara, Mallory and Liz his guests at Yankee Stadium for the 2008 all-star game. She got invited to see Bon Jovi perform in Central Park.
Yet, Mallory insists that what she did was no big deal. "Honestly, it's one of those things that I hope anyone would do for me," Holtman said. "She hit the ball over the fence… I think anyone who knew that we could help her would have offered to do it, just because it's the right thing to do."
The right thing indeed. Maybe that’s why this story has been so popular. Perhaps our hearts recognize in this simple act of kindness the truth and beauty of Jesus’ golden rule: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).