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It’s been called the best act of sportsmanship in years, and it happened on a softball field in Ellensburg, Washington. 

The women’s softball team from Central Washington University was playing Western Oregon University for the chance to advance to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II playoffs. Central lost their first game to Western, 8–1, and needed to win the second game in the series to keep their playoff dreams alive. 

During the second game, with two runners on base, Western senior Sara Tucholsky came up to bat. Sara was described as a good fielder with a struggling batting average at the plate. But on the second pitch, Sara did something she’d never done before in her four years of playing for Western. She hit a home run! With the other two runners on base, Sara had just given Western a three-run lead. 

Sara ran to first base while watching the ball fly over the center field fence. But in her excitement, she forgot to touch first base. Realizing her error, she turned to go back to touch the bag. 

That’s when it happened. Sara’s knee gave out from a torn ligament, and she dropped to the ground in excruciating pain. 

The first-base coach was right there. But according to the rule book, if she touched Sara while she was rounding the bases, Sara would receive an out, cancelling her home run. So Sara had to crawl back to the first base bag without assistance. 

Sara’s pain was apparent as her face wrenched with each movement. Her teammates and the spectators in the stands watched in horror at the sight. It was clear that there was no way Sara could finish running the bases. 

The coach for Western, Pam Knox, met with the umpires and learned that her only option was to substitute a runner for Sara—but even doing that would erase Sara’s home run. Instead, Sara would be credited with a single and two runs batted in (RBIs). 

Knox told reporters, “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.” 

Then something amazingly unexpected happened. 

Four-year starter for Central, Mallory Holtman, asked if there were any rules against her and her teammates carrying Sara to home plate. 

The umpires knew of no rules against the opposing team helping the other team. So Mallory, with the help of Liz Wallace, another teammate, walked over to Sara, picked her up, and began carrying her around the bases. 

At each base they would stop and allow Sara to touch the bag with her good leg. By the time they got to home plate, the crowd and both benches were giving them a standing ovation.* 

WHO NEEDS A LIFT? 

Central’s selfless act caused them to lose the game. Amazing, isn’t it? In the face of great personal sacrifice, they laid down their lives to lift up someone else’s. 

Our world is full of broken and hurting people. People who are either too broken to make it on their own, or so lost they don’t even know where home is. Our job and calling as followers of Christ is to do whatever we can to help them find their way and make it home, even if it means laying down our lives and dreams in the process. 

Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). 

What or who is your cross? Whom do you know who needs a lift today? 

To the girls of Central Washington University, Sara was their cross that day on the softball field, and they helped to carry her home. 

For you and I, it may be another believer who’s so bogged down in life that they’ve forgotten their faith. It may be a friend whose parents have divorced, or a person at school whose sibling has died. It may be a coworker who doesn’t believe in God and has no hope in what tomorrow might bring. 

We can help people get from this life to the next by staying by their side even through the worst of times and sharing the good news of Jesus Christ with them. Jesus is waiting with arms wide open to yell the one word He wants to say to every human being: “Safe!” 

 

This article originally appeared in the May 15, 2010, issue of Insight. Paddy (Padraic) McCoy is the campus chaplain at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington. One day he hopes to travel to Ireland, where his name is as common as Bob or John.

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