I’m an athlete (cough, cough). Well, let’s say I was an athlete and, now, I am someone who plays a game that requires some coordination, but mostly mental ability to focus on the game and make do with what I have. I play a game called lawn bowls and have played it on a very high level. In playing this, I have come to understand what sports mean. (When I was young and in shape, I played all the sports and my athleticism allowed me to do things well, despite not knowing a damn thing.)
And this is what I want to talk about today.
I watched a brilliant athletic performance today. A pitcher named Brendon Gordon pitched a complete game, giving up only one run. (I’ll explain that one run later!) This kid deserved the win.
I have played my game since I was kid as a third generation of now four generations of Sayer Lawn Bowlers. (Look up the sport because I’m sure most of you have never heard of it. It’s akin to bocce, but it is different.) I have played for and won national championships. I say this not to brag, (since you have never heard of the sport, I’m guessing, even if I was bragging, most of you would’ve chuckled a little anyway!), but to give context to my understanding of knowing what it takes to win.
In playing this sport year after year, I have noticed every single time when I made a mistake that ended up costing me in the end, why it did and why I wasn’t able to overcome it. I always put the blame on myself since I have the ability to somehow know how to win and, when I don’t find that, it’s on me.
Brendon, I’m sure, feels this way today. There was a simple little play that happened in the middle of this game. Brendon gave up a double. He faced the next batter with a runner on second. A base hit scores the run, but the Mercyhurst coach thought it better to try to get the runner to third where even more possibilities scores that run. So a bunt is called.
And it’s laid down nicely!
But down the third base line with the runner on second who has to hold to see what the fielders do. Brendon goes to field the bunt but, in doing so, slips and falls.
Now, this where you say as a spectator, “ok, eat it, just field it.” Hold the runner on second and just chalk it up as an, “oh, well,” and move on to the next batter.
But as an athlete you think, “I can still get that guy out.”
This is when an old athlete, a coach and a spectator wishes they could push a remote and just pause time in order to impart some wisdom. But we can’t. We just watch and feel every fiber of the memories we have of doing something the very same way and wishing we hadn’t.
The ball sailed over the second baseman’s head as he covered first. (By the way, if the throw was accurate, the runner was out by a mile. So, the instincts weren’t necessarily wrong. It was just a rushed and errant throw.)
As a photographer covering this, I thought, oh my, this is how you lose a game.
Not knowing how accurate that thought was at the time, this Franklin team is a good one, they’ll surely bounce back.
Many of its players played for a state championship last summer in Junior League baseball. They know the game.
They know what it feels like to cross that plate and they know what it feels like when the other team crosses the plate. And that runner who was on second crossed the plate.
No one else touched home plate the rest of the game.
Brendon Gordon pitched a seven-inning game, giving up only one run on a fielder’s choice throwing error and lost the game. He pitched a brilliant game! He deserved the win.
He even got on base in the seventh inning with a weird little dubber of a hit that he beat out to first!
He then stole second. TheFranklin coaches obviously took note of the catcher for Mercyhurst not having a strong arm and Gordon having good speed.
And then in a really gutsy move, he stole third.
Game on!!! it seemed. Franklin had runners on second and third with one out.
Now, a wild pitch, a long sacrifice fly or a single ties the game or, perhaps, wins the game. This young man was in the position to right the wrong he felt inside from his throwing error. They were poised.
Sadly, a batter struck out and the final batter grounded out to short with the bases loaded. They didn’t quite have enough to put anyone across the plate.
That is baseball.
So, why was only one run scored and why didn’t Franklin score with many batters left on base over the seven innings?
It’s not fair to point fingers, it’s a team effort and the only time an idea isn’t brilliant or gutsy is when it fails. And breaks sometimes don’t fall your way.
One issue could be base running!
An opportunity was lost when a runner early was caught in a rundown after a pick-off attempt. He was signaled to steal and was a tad over-zealous, perhaps. Good fundamentals on the opposing team’s part caused him to be tagged out!
But, it is not his fault they weren’t able to score. Yes, had he not been tagged out, he would’ve gone on to score as it turned out. But, this was just one thing. Failure to advance runners and to plate runs is never one single incident. Innings later, a runner on third was confused during a fly ball to the outfield and didn’t return to the base to tag up. Though this may not have ended up in a run (the outfielder did get the ball into the infield very fast), it was certainly a missed opportunity at a try to score. Inning after inning, Franklin’s attempts were thwarted by Mercyhurst.
Right or wrong, it just wasn’t Franklin’s day. They gave themselves opportunities, but, in the end, it just didn’t happen.
Gordon pitched brilliantly and should feel proud of his performance, though, as an athlete who has lost, I know that’s not in the make up. If I were to offer any sage advice to this young man, it would be this: We learn more from our failures than we ever do from our successes.
It may not seem that way now, but in time, if we take our failures and grow them into future successes, we understand it more clearly. Brendon, you pitched extremely well today, and the Franklin players tried really hard and, had any one thing broken differently in their favor, the result of the game would’ve been different. Learning from the small mistakes will carry them further next year. Take these lessons and build, don’t lament.
Now, earlier in the day, I photographed the girls’ softball team, who where in a similar battle.
A brilliant pitching performance and a one-run game for most of the game. In this case, fortune and the cards falling right on the team’s decision led to an eventual win and a big inning at the end.
Sport is funny sometimes how it seems to favor one over the other, but, when you look at it closely, you realize it’s the moment one captures that thing we cannot explain and capitalizes on it that makes the difference. Some call it “in the zone.” Some call it talent and hard work in the determination to achieve and some call it lady luck.
The truth is, it’s sports and you have to play it out to see where it lies in the end.
Below are a few more photos from today’s action. I enjoy photographing youth sports because, within this microcosm, there are the lessons of life. There are the lessons of community and there are the lessons of team and camaraderie! It’s brawn and ballet!
I met up with an old friend today that told me a local newspaper editor said they don’t want to spend much time in covering local high school sports anymore, that no one cares about it and no one reads about it. This shocked me, actually, and I won’t believe it until I hear it directly. I agree, we spend too much time on athletics compared to the arts, but athletics, and especially local school athletics, are hugely important to the fabric of community. I hope this local editor (not the Derrick or News-Herald!) comes to understand the importance of how sport is something to embrace in our community.
Congrats to the Franklin girls on their win today against Jamestown. And congrats to the Franklin boys on a great game that was one small turn away from a win! Brendon Gordon, you played very well today and deserved to win. Someday, we’ll sit down and I’ll tell you about my 5 second-place finishes in the national championships and, more importantly, my two wins. I can tell you exactly how I didn’t win in the five second places, but not really how I won the two.