Leadership is not always about winning, but it IS always about people. This story illustrates how the boys on both teams demonstrated the leadership qualities of awareness, authenticity, making a difference, taking a risk, and stepping outside of needing to win the game in order to create a bigger, more meaningful win for all involved. The rising tide raises all boats!
This is one of those stories that gets passed around the internet. If you know who wrote it, please let me know so I can attribute it!
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning
disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would
never be forgotten by all who attended. After extolling the school and its
dedicated staff, he offered a question:
‘When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does,
is done with perfection.
Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do.
Where is the natural order of things in my son?’
The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued. ‘I believe that when a child like Shay, who was
mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity
to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other
people treat that child.’
Then he told the following story:
Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were
playing baseball. Shay asked, ‘Do you think they’ll let me play?’ I knew that
most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a
father, I also understood that if my son were allowed to play, it would give
him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by
others in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much)
if Shay could play. The boy looked around for guidance and said, ‘We’re losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we’ll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.’
Shay struggled over to the team’s bench and, with a broad smile, put on a
team shirt. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart .
The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay’s team scored a few runs but was
still behind by three.
In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the
right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic
just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved
to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay’s team scored again.
Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on
base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat.
At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn’t even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay’s life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed.
The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay.
As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the
Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman’s head, out of reach of all team mates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, ‘Shay, run to first! Run to first!’
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, ‘Run to second, run to second!’
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base.
By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the
ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to
be the hero for his team.
He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he
understood the pitcher’s intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball
high and far over the third-baseman’s head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him
circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, ‘Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay’
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help
him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, ‘Run to
third! Shay, run to third!’
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators,
were on their feet screaming, ‘Shay, run home! Run home!’
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero
who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.
‘That day’, said the father softly with tears now rolling down his
face, ‘the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and
humanity into this world’.
Shay didn’t make it to another summer. He died that winter, having
never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and
seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
(In honor of Philadelphia winning the World Series!)
The original story, about a Jewish boy named Shaya, was apparently true, though this slightly WASPized version has been dramatized a bit by adding “Shay’s” death (not true). You can see the original story and get the name of the Rabbi who authored it here:
Cool! Thanks, Michael! It’s always helpful to have the original attributions to these things that fly around the ‘net. I appreciate your sharing that with us!