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From the Head Coach: Step aside from routine and enjoy life

By Victoria Advocate
Sept. 4, 2010 at 4:04 a.m.

Lane Johnson

From the Head Coach . . .

On Aug. 24, the Houston Astros played a 16-inning baseball game. Actually, it ended on Aug. 25 in the wee hours of the morning. Even if you don't like baseball, you will still want to keep reading. Something happened in the 15th inning that would make anyone smile.

For the benefit of those who don't watch much baseball, let me lay some groundwork. Major League Baseball games are normally nine innings long. If the score is tied at that point then the game plays on until someone outscores the opponent. There are no ties in baseball. Someone has to win or you just keep playing.

On this particular night, the Astros were in Philadelphia, Pa., playing the Philadelphia Phillies. In the ninth inning, the Phillies tied the score, sending the game into extra innings.

It took 16 innings before someone finally won. Since seven "extra innings" is almost playing another whole game, it is not unusual for the regular players to fatigue and be replaced by rested substitutes. If the game goes on long enough, a coach can run out of substitutes.

In baseball, there are pitchers and then the rest of the players who don't pitch, but play various positions. These are called position players. Pitchers don't play these other positions. They just pitch. Unless, of course, the game goes on long enough and a team runs out of position players.

Which is exactly what happened during this particular game.

In the 14th inning, just as the commentators were remarking that Philadelphia was using their last position player, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard, took exception to a controversial call by the third base umpire and tossed his bat a little further than is customary. The umpire immediately ejected him from the game. The coach had no choice but to replace Howard with a pitcher.

So in the 15th inning, the Phillies took the field with their ace pitcher, Roy Oswalt, standing in left field.

The fact that Roy is an ace pitcher is not what makes this so unusual. Since his debut into the majors in 2001, Oswalt has played for only one team, the Houston Astros. However, just 30 days prior to this game, he was traded to the Phillies. Now he finds himself in left field, an unfamiliar position, facing his former teammates. He later said this was the first time he played left field since slow-pitch softball tournaments growing up in Mississippi.

The first Astros batter hit a fly ball to . you guessed it . left field. The crowd went silent as they watched Roy approach the ball. It was a pretty routine fly and Roy had little trouble making the catch. The fans immediately burst into a standing ovation. Roy began to laugh and even looked a little embarrassed. The Phillies smiled in relief.

Even the Astros broke into smiles in appreciation for their former pitcher and respected friend. How refreshing it was to watch adversaries briefly put aside their opposition to each other and collectively join in some fun.

The play was good for one team and not so good for the other, but everyone seemed pleased and happy about it. It was a long and tiring game, but that didn't seem to matter right then.

I couldn't help but appreciate the symbolism. Isn't it encouraging that though salaries, careers and prestige often depend on winning over losing, people can transcend the competition from time to time and demonstrate to each other that if you can't have some fun along the way, then you have forgotten how to live?

So you see? This is not a story about baseball. It may have happened in a baseball game, but it could happen anywhere and to any of us. There is a lesson to be learned here. Though we spend much of our time in competition, be it sports, business or relationships, we can transcend the pressure from time to time, appreciate the lighter side of life and join in the fun. Laughter can unite people.

By the way, the Astros won that game, 4-2. Guess which Phillies batter made the last out? Roy Oswalt.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by e-mail at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.

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