By Michael Barera, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25901778

The Greatest (Softball) Game Ever Played

My partner and I were running late for our double header in Ellensburg that day. Somehow our game time changed, and we weren’t notified. These kinds of things were rare but did happen once in a while.

That point will forever be lost in the history of the day. For those who need a reminder about what happened April 26, 2008 in Ellensburg, WA, here’s the video:

As a point of reference, I’m the guy wearing the blue shirt following along as Mallory and Liz carry Sara around the bases. As a result of that play, there is now a question on the NCAA softball umpire test every year. All because of a decision I made that day.

The magnitude of the event was never lost on me. I’m a question on the NCAA softball test every year because I actually got the play wrong. There is a rule I could have used to award her the home run. Had I done that, this whole thing would have never happened.

After the game, I immediately called my supervisor of umpires and gave him the rundown. I still remember his words after I told the story.

“What did Gary (Fredrick) say?” He was the coach of CWU at the time.

“Nothing,” I replied to my boss. “He just sat there.”

And history was made. I watched the ESPY ceremony where Mallory, Liz, and Sara were all on stage with Justin Timberlake. I was interviewed in Sports Illustrated twice. My partner that day ended up talking to a softball magazine in Japan for an interview.I was supposed to go to New York and appear on Good Morning America, but it never happened. I was supposed to be in the ESPN interview, but I had a tournament to work the next day.

I drive around the country as a college softball umpire. I still see billboards commemorating the extraordinary compassion around the whole thing. The funniest part about everything surrounding the whole event is the reaction I get from people when they find out I was there.

At first it’s excitement about meeting me, and then. . . nothing. No one really knows what to say next. They ask shallow questions like “What was it like?” or “How did you handle that?” or general statements like “You got the rule wrong.” They walk away, and I’m another after thought like every other referee and umpire. I laugh at it all.

The funniest thing I realize from the situation is that I never talked to Mallory about it. She replaced Gary Fredrick as the head coach at CWU a few years after she graduated. I worked many of her games. It never came up. Ever. Not once. So I wonder what would I say to her if given the opportunity? Then it hit me:

When the right decision is made at the right time for the right reasons, no more words are necessary