THE STRIKE ZONE
Sometimes Sports, Sometimes Sportsmanship
Read this conversation and soak it in:
"Hey, my fault on that, uh..."
"My fault on that strike."
"No, you're good."
"Well, I just..."
"C'mon, you're good, bro."
"I don't like..."
"No, no worries. You're competing. I understand. Don't worry. You know what's best of it? You come back and you tell me that. That's how good of a guy you are. You kidding me? Thank you."
That conversation took place between Chicago Cubs All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo and home plate umpire Angel Hernandez.
In the top of the fifth inning, Rizzo took a pitch he was ball four for a strike. Rizzo had already dropped his bat and was heading to first when it was called a strike by Hernandez. In hindsight, it was a good for Rizzo: on the next pitch, he broke out of his slump and smacked a home run.
Prior to his next at-bat, as Rizzo was coming up, Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt came out to the mound, which gave Rizzo his opportunity to apologize to Hernandez for showing him up.
After the game, during a press conference, Rizzo was asked about it:
Q. The TV cameras picked up what people on social media are calling a cool moment of sportsmanship between you and Angel Hernandez. Can you just talk about that?
"Yeah, well, the umpires, all of the umpires they're out here at the highest level doing their best, and we're competing at our best and they're competing. So on a pitch that I disagreed with and to think it was a ball and then him call a strike, I don't like showing up the umpires. They're out here working their tails off 162 like we are. There is no home for them. They're on the road the entire season. So just to let him know that, hey, my fault there. I probably should have waited a little longer to not just assume it was a ball. That's just the way I am. They're working as hard as we're working, and it's just different perspectives."
Wow. I think I have finally found who I would support for President.
First and foremost, let's discuss how this is the epitome of good sportsmanship. Anthony Rizzo is one of baseball's youngest and most exciting stars. He acts with class and dignity while competing at the highest level. With this type of evidence, you could make the argument that he embodies the next Derek Jeter. To have the humility and awareness that the first thing he needs to do when he goes back to home plate is apologize to Hernandez shows that he cares more about respect for his fellow man than about winning, which is not an easy thing to do, especially when you're in the middle of a big slump in the National League Championship Series...and you play for the Chicago Cubs.
Angel Hernandez does what a good person and a good umpire does. Not only does he brush it off and make peace with Rizzo easily, but he diffuses the situation. An umpire's job (among all his many duties) is to keep situations from getting out of hand. Hernandez took the high road here and shared his compassion and empathy with Rizzo in way that established a bond between the two. That bond is something for which we should all strive, no matter our walk of life.
Consider this as a sidebar: in the past ten to fifteen years, Angel Hernandez has been labeled as one of the worst umpires in baseball for two reasons. First, his ability to calls balls and strikes has been sub-par in prior instances. (He called 95.9% of the pitches in Game 4 correctly, which is the highest score of any of the postseason games in which the Dodgers have played this year to this point.) Second, he was considered a hot-head and found himself in the middle of too many controversies over the course of his career.
However, Hernandez has improved significantly in his temperament, becoming a bit more relaxed and letting the game "come to him." Although Hernandez probably has to prove his improvement over a consistent period of time in order to erase the memories from the minds of fans who label him as the enemy, the fact that he would show such behavior with Rizzo in such a pressure-packed situation provides solid evidence that people (even umpires) can change. After all, umpires are asked to start perfect, then get better.
Overall, if you ever need to show a kid an example of good sportsmanship, show him this clip. And I dare you not to get a little welling of tears in your eyes every time you watch it.