Too often we forget the human side of sports, the soft side that lives in all of us, world class athletes and the people who cheer or boo them alike.
That emotion was on display during baseball’s opening weekend when a few tears were shed watching events on field.
Let’s start with the Colorado Rockies who were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jose Iglesias, in his first at-bat with the Rockies, delivered an RBI single in the second inning. When he reached first base, he started crying, overcome with emotion.
Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers first baseman, asked what was wrong and Iglesias told him that the tears were for his father, who had recently died. His dad had been his greatest fan, always watching his son. This hit, this first hit of a new season, would be the first hit his dad did not see.
Freeman understood. He patted Iglesias on the back, a bit of compassion exchanged between two opponents, a touch of humanity that is missing so often in the grind of the game. There was a word or two of encouragement, a moment of understanding between two rivals.
Freeman has a reputation of being that sort of player, a stand-up guy who understands that ballplayers are also human beings subject to the vulnerability that lives within us all.
The sadness of Iglesias contrasted with the joy experienced by Mike Brousseau of the Milwaukee Brewers. Traded over the winter by Tampa Bay, Brousseau was with the Brewers at Wrigley Field for opening weekend.
It was a familiar setting for him because he drew up in nearby Indiana and attended many games at Wrigley as a youngster growing up. He sat there in the grandstand like so many kids, dreaming of being in the batter’s box and swinging for the seats in this storied old ball yard.
On Sunday, it happened for him.
Inserted as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning, Brousseau delivered the first pinch hit home run of his career, breaking a tie and helping the Brewers to their first win of the season. As he circled the bases, a group of his friends and family, who had made the trip to Wrigley, the same one he used to make as a kid, cheered him on.
That, too, was the stuff of tears, just like the moment Jose Iglesias experienced with Freddie Freeman. That is the soft side of baseball, the side that makes it the best game ever invented.