Every year, upon the anniversary of our sportsmanship moment, I spend time reflecting on what our story means to me in the present stage of my life and in the current climate. It’s been a meaningful practice and an avenue to ensure I never lose sight of how two strangers’ actions impacted me and more broadly, paved the way for so many more important displays of sportsmanship. Each anniversary, I have a greater appreciation for what transpired on the dirt that day and more desire to make sure this incredible story of humanity is rooted in who I am and how I show up for others.
Tuesday, April 26, 2022 marks the 14th anniversary of that special senior-day game at Central Washington. And this year, as I was reminiscing on the incredible events and opportunities we were fortunate to experience and be a part of, The Musial Awards, named after the great Stan Musial, is top of the list for me.
From the very beginning and still, to this day, I have a difficult time standing in the spotlight with Mallory Holtman and Elizabeth Wallace. It wasn’t me who made that selfless decision back in 2008, yet I was still invited to all the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that came our way. The Musial Awards were different. For the first time, I was able to formally recognize and thank Mallory and Liz for the character they showed and the lasting impact they had on sports fans and beyond. It was a beautiful moment up on stage 14 years ago, and as the folks at The Musial Awards can attest, it still brings up so much emotion in me today.
I share these words to encourage you to consider your impact. Impact is not always made in big showcase-able moments. Impact can be seen and felt in the tiny moments and small decisions that make up our days, weeks, and years – don’t underestimate that. 14 years later, Mallory and Liz’s impact has reached far beyond carrying me around the bases to complete my one (and only) home run. Their impact continues to live on through me, and others, who were inspired by their actions and character that day.
The Musial Awards is an incredible annual event produced by the St. Louis Sports Commission and the National Sportsmanship Foundation, which recognizes those individuals in sports who promote the virtues of character, respect, selflessness, and civility on the playing field and throughout society. Please consider partnering with me this year to give back to such a meaningful organization. Donate Here!
Athletes and fans alike will tell you a home run is always special, no matter how many you experience. But few can ever match the emotion surrounding the one hit on April 26 by Sara Tucholsky, a senior softball player at Western Oregon University.
That day, the Wolves faced Central Washington University with an NCAA Division II postseason berth at stake. With two runners on base, Sara’s line drive over the center field wall knocked in the first runs of the game. As Sara ran out of the batter’s box, she was also overjoyed for another reason; it was the first home run of her career. But as Sara rounded first, something happened that would make her historic homer much more than a personal accomplishment.
She missed the bag. And as she turned back to touch it, her knee gave out. She crawled back to first in agony, unable to finish rounding the bases. Her coaches consulted with the umpires – if she was touched by her teammates, she would be called out; and if a pinch-runner was inserted, her first career home run would be wiped from the record books, replaced by a two-run single. That’s when Mallory Holtman, the Central Washington first baseman, spoke up. With 35 career home runs, most in the history of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, Mallory wasn’t going to let her opponent be deprived of her first homer, no matter the circumstances.
With the umpires consent, Mallory and Wildcat shortstop Liz Wallace approached Sara with a plan to preserve her home run, one that would moisten eyes both inside the stadium and across the nation. Mallory and Liz picked up Sara and carefully carried her around the diamond, gently lowering her as they approached each base so that she could tag it with her non-injured leg. At home plate, they delivered her into the arms of her waiting teammates.
Western Oregon went on to win the game 4-2, and advance to the postseason. Though Central Washington lost the game, Mallory and Liz’s selfless act did not fade away with their season. It has proven to be a beacon of sportsmanship – attracting praise from fans and media across the country in recent weeks. Though they could not have realized it at the time, Mallory and Liz transformed Sara’s home run. They turned it into something greater than runs on the scoreboard, something greater than the postseason, something greater even than the game of softball itself.
In carrying their fallen opponent around the bases, Mallory and Liz exemplified the ideals of selflessness and compassion, and the principles of fair play. In the ballpark of sportsmanship, they truly hit a home run.
Mallory and Liz were recognized by the Citizenship Through Sports Alliance and the St. Louis Sports Commission.