JACKSON, Tenn. (BP) — In the movie “A League of Their Own,” Evelyn (Bitty Shram) is yelled at by her coach after making a bad throw, and she begins to cry.
“There’s no crying in baseball!” screams Coach Jimmy Duggan (Tom Hanks), the brash and loud coach of the Rockford Peaches all-ladies baseball team.
The umpire steps in and tells Duggan, “Perhaps you chastise her too vehemently. A good rule of thumb — treat each of these girls as you would treat your mother.” Some might resist such kindness and say there is no crying in baseball, but at least there should be compassion.
Albert Almora Jr. of the Chicago Cubs showed us the other night what compassion looks like.
In a game against the Astros at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Almora ripped a line drive foul ball during the top of the fourth inning which struck a young child in the stands. Almora kept his eyes on the ball as it went foul and hit the child.
He immediately clasped his head with both hands. He then fell to his knees near home plate, buried his head in his arms and appeared to be crying. Teammate Jason Heyward and manager Joe Maddon went out to console him.
Fans said that Minute Maid Park went quiet and that it was an “awful scene.” Nearby fan David LeVasseur told the Houston Chronicle that as soon as the ball hit the girl, “All we heard was screaming” and “We saw this dad pick up his child and run up the stairs. He took off running.”
Almora struggled to finish his at bat and play through the inning. After the third out, he walked over to the stands where the girl and her family had been sitting to ask about the situation. After checking things out, cameras captured the big tough baseball player embracing a blond-haired security guard and sobbing on her shoulder. All this was played out in front of 30,000 fans in Houston and millions more at home.
(Sports blogger Larry Brown reported that Almora, the Cubs center fielder, has been in touch with the family and the girl was said to be OK.)
At our house, you’ll often hear, “You’ve got to see this play” as we rush to the flat screen to watch a particular replay. Seeing a well-executed double play or a diving outfield catch or a long-shot homerun with my sons is something we all love to do together, but I really wanted them to see this foul ball incident and how Almora reacted.
Some will undoubtedly use it as an opportunity to debate about the extension of netting at baseball games. However, there is a more important thing for us to discuss here — and that is manhood.
While some believe that boys shouldn’t cry and while Twitter was filled with disparaging comments about Almora’s show of emotion, it was indeed good evidence of true masculinity — a man’s healthy and balanced compassionate strength, something our society and particularly the boys in our society need to experience.
We see too many negative things among today’s athletes — ostentatious self-centeredness, rude cockiness, showboating, immoral activity. Kids today hear of star players arrested for domestic violence and other illegal activity.
In the midst of all this, Almora’s compassion and his show of emotion for a hurting child is a breath of fresh air.
Our family never roots for the Cubs, but Almora is my new hero. Sure, he’s a great player who often does mind-bending acrobatics in center field, and he is someone who should be celebrated. But as writer Christine Organ noted, the beauty of his situation lies not in his “fancy catches or his superhuman athletic abilities,” but rather in his humanity. “Because regardless of whether he wins a gold glove or how many highlight reels he makes, his heart of gold is what makes him the real MVP.”