Eric Musselman, the University of Arkansas' first-year basketball coach, hung out with ...
EDITORIAL: There are no do-overs in baseball
Arkansas players react after the final out of the College World Series championship game against Oregon State on Thursday, June 28, 2018, in Omaha, Neb. The Razorbacks lost 5-0.
We recall a baseball camp a few years back for youngsters, ages 10 or 11, when the coach in charge lined the players up for a nefarious drill.
He had three boys stand with their backs to him as he proceeded to throw a baseball straight up in the air as high as he could. As he let it go, he signaled for the boys to turn around, locate the ball in the air, move to the right spot, call for it if they had a good bead and make the catch in traffic.
Real baseball fans celebrate the Razorbacks 2018 season, despite its disappointing ending.
If you, dear reader, think that sounds hard, you'd be right. In 20 minutes and a couple of dozen attempts by a number of boys (all accomplished players for their ages), not a single one made a catch. The players bumped into each other a few times, but the ball always fell between them as one or more lunged desperately to either grab it or get out of the way.
Near the end of the drill, one young fellow came pretty close. The ball slipped just past the end of his glove and fell between three bewildered ball players once again.
The coach, a veteran of several college positions, said, "Awww. Almost. Do you want to try again?"
"Yes!" cried the boy who was nearly the hero of the moment.
"Tough!" shouted the coach, in a slightly playful but gruff tone of voice. "There are no do-overs in baseball!"
With that, the kids went on to the next drill.
That fly ball drill is akin to "Star Trek's" Kobayashi Maru battle simulation: an exam with no acceptable solution meant to test the tenacity and dedication of the participants, even when they know failure is the likeliest outcome. That's an important lesson in a game with no do-overs.
The drill came to mind last week as the same scene played out on a baseball field in Omaha. But this time, the players were older and supremely skilled Arkansas Razorbacks. And the stakes were much, much higher: an NCAA championship rather than the brief adulation of adolescent peers. Yet a fly ball fell between three of them, just like it had at that long-ago camp. And just like the coach said, there were no do-overs.
A catch would have ended the game with a 3-2 Arkansas victory, a second win in the College World Series Championship match and given the Razorbacks that national title trophy. Instead, Oregon State cashed in its second chance and rallied to win. The next night the Beavers took care of business again to rip the prize away from our hometown heroes.
It was a gut-punch for fans who, for a fleeting second, thought they were about to celebrate a huge win. For the players and coaches of the team, it was even worse. They'd done more than cheer at games, holler at the umpires, call the Hogs in odd places and stress while watching from the comfort of their couches and recliners. They'd put in the work, traveled the miles, sacrificed for their teammates and exerted maximum effort to take home the top prize. But for a misjudged fly ball ....
As we said, there are no do-overs in baseball.
But after the sun came up the next morning, true fans didn't want one for the 2018 season. It was indeed a magical run, the Razorbacks' trip through its daunting schedule. The games were entertaining and invigorating. The players and coaches played hard and well and represented their school and their state in a way to make the folks back home proud.
Yes, we heard about the chirping know-nothings who criticized Arkansas players for failing to catch the ball, calling it a routine play that everyone knows should have been made (it was nothing of the kind; it was an extremely difficult play, even for top-level talent). Pay no attention to those people. Better to remember that only two teams made it as far as the Razorbacks did, and only two teams had the chance to come within a whisker of winning a championship. We also suspect that no team would have handled the crushing disappointment in a classier manner.
It is an old baseball adage, that "no do-overs" thing, Real fans know that. They also are proud of the team and happy for the experience of a wonderful season. And they're eager for the next one, knowing that there's another old baseball adage that's a perfect response after every close call and disappointment: "Wait 'til next year."
Commentary on 07/03/2018
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