“The first pitch I took, it was a strike. And then I really don’t remember where the home run pitch was at all; [I] just remember hitting it, and I knew it was out.”
Prior to the pitch she sent over the center-field fence, she had just three hits in 34 at-bats this season. And in that respect, her hitting heroics would have made for a pleasing, if familiar, story line on their own: an unsung player steps up in one of her final games and lifts her team’s postseason chances.
But it was what happened after an overly excited Tucholsky missed first base on her home run trot and reversed direction to tag the bag that proved unforgettable.
“I’m coaching third and I’m high-fiving the other two runners that came by — then all of a sudden, I look up, and I’m like, ‘Where’s Sara?‘ And I look over, and she’s in a heap beyond first base.”
While she was doubling back to tag first base, Tucholsky’s right knee gave out. The two runners who had been on base already had crossed home plate, leaving her the only offensive player on the field of play, even as she lay crumpled in the dirt a few feet from first base and a long way from home plate. First-base coach Shannon Prochaska — Tucholsky’s teammate for three seasons and the only voice she later remembered hearing in the ensuing conversation — checked to see whether she could crawl back to the base under her own power.
As Knox explained, “It went through my mind, I thought, ‘If I touch her, she’s going to kill me.’ It’s her only home run in four years. I didn’t want to take that from her, but at the same time, I was worried about her.”
Umpires confirmed that the only option available under the rules was to replace Tucholsky at first base with a pinch runner and have the hit recorded as a two-run single instead of a three-run home run. Any assistance from coaches or trainers while she was an active runner would result in an out. So without any choice, Knox prepared to make the substitution, taking both the run and the memory from Tucholsky.
“And right then,” Knox said, “I heard, ‘Excuse me, would it be OK if we carried her around and she touched each bag?'”
If an opponent, on the losing side of a big time game, can see the big picture, shouldn’t we all? Sports below the professional ranks isn’t about winning and losing – it’s about making us better people. They get it up in Washington.