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You Have To Touch Them All

April 22, 2016

The ball sailed high over the outfield fence. A home run. Your team get’s a run, right? 

Not quite. Your batter has to round the bases, touching each one. If he (or she) misses one, the batter is out and the run doesn’t count. 

Sara Tucholsky was a softball player for Western Oregon a few years ago. In her final home game, the diminutive 5’2″ player did something she’d failed to do in 4 years of college fastpitch softball, with two runners on base, she hit a ball over the fence for a three run homer. The first, and probably last home run of her college career.  And it was an important game as her team battled Central Washington, their opponent that day, for a chance at the post season. 

Sara knew that you had to touch them all. In her excitement rounding first base, she missed the bag. As she turned to go back and touch it, she ruptured her ACL and collapsed in a heap of excruciating pain. She wasn’t sure she could crawl the few feet to first base, let alone the unreachable distance around the basepaths. The rules are simple. If the runner cannot advance, a pinch runner can be substituted, but the home run, the only one of her career would be ruled a single. And if any of her teammates even touched her, she would immeadiately be called out. 

Tough luck, huh? You have to touch them all.

Mike Price wasn’t involved in softball, he was a football coach, and a really good one. In 2003 he was offered the head coaching job at Alabama, one of the premier football schools in the country. A funny thing happened on the way to the field, though. Price got into some personal problems when he brought a stripper back to his hotel room. He lost his job when the story made the papers. He was never fired though, because technically he’d never been hired. He failed to sign his seven-year, $10,000,000 contract. You have to touch them all. 

I sometimes teach Sunday school. One time I was teaching a group of high school kids. They were all great kids. I asked them if a mass shooter were to break in and threaten to kill them unless they denied their testimony of Jesus Christ, would they do it? Would they deny the Savior to save their lives. To a person, they all enthusiastically announced they were willing to die for their beliefs. 

Now, we have a service project scheduled for Saturday. How many of you are planning to be there?

They were comfortable committing to the big things, they hit the ball over the fence, but they were less enthused about some of the smaller things. You have to touch them all.

There are times in business where we spend so much time working to get an approval for a large project, or getting the prospect to commit to the big sale, or getting the book contract, that it’s almost a letdown when we have to follow through on the smaller pieces; when we have to go touch them all. 

One more baseball story. In 1908, rookie Fred Merkle’s New York Giants were battling the Chicago Cubs in a game late in the season. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, Merkle was on first and Moose McCormick on third. The score was tied 1-1. Giants shortstop Al Bridwell hit the first pitch into centerfield for a single. McCormick trotted home from third and the Giants won 2-1. Or, they would have if Merkle hadn’t stopped running between first and second. He joined the crowds swarming the field and completely forgot about the fact that he was still a baserunner until he touched second or was forced out at second. 

The Cubs didn’t forget. Legendary Cubs second baseman Johnny Evers called for the ball and stepped on second base. Merkle was out, the run didn’t count and the game ended in a tie. The Cubs won the make up game, and it was enough to help them win the National League pennant. They went on to win the World Series that year. The last World Series they’ve ever won in the ensuing 107 years. You have to touch them all. 

Unlike Merkle’s blunder, the college game between Central Washington and Western Oregon had a better outcome. In one of the most remarkable displays of sportsmanship ever recorded on a ballfield, the Central Washington players picked up Sara Tucholsky, their opponent, and very carefully carried her around the bases. She gingerly placed a toe on each base in turn before finally touching home plate and being carried off by her teammates to seek medical attention. The Central Washington team lost by two runs. They picked sportsmanship over winning. 

They understood that even if you are on opposite teams, you have to touch them all. 

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. His blog updates every weekday at 7:00 AM Mountain Time. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife, thirteen children and grandchildren. 

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