Baseball Peacemakers

I am not a sports fan, but sometimes the sports world offers illustrations related to peacemaking. Usually it’s a bad apology—athletes provide a steady stream of them—, but last week, baseball offered us an example of something good: apology and forgiveness done well.
Armando Gallaraga, who plays for the Detroit Tigers, was “already celebrating” when he stepped on first base and caught the fielder’s throw before the batter reached the base: this was the third out of the ninth inning of the no-hitter Gallaraga had just pitched. But to his surprise, the umpire said the runner was safe. Certain that the umpire had made a bad call, Gallaraga says, “I had two choices: I could smile or I could punch him.” He chose to smile.
What empowers a person to show that kind of grace? It is no doubt always difficult to accept an official’s bad call with grace, but this was not just any game. There have been only twenty no-hitters in major league history, so Gallaraga was about to achieve something rarely seen in baseball—and the bad call by the umpire deprived him of officially pitching a no-hitter. Somehow, in that moment when Gallaraga realized he had a choice of how to respond, he was able to forgive the umpire, and smile.
The umpire, Jim Joyce, truly believed at the time that the runner arrived on base before Gallaraga. The Tigers’ manager and others began shouting at him, so Joyce went into the umpires’ room and asked to see a replay. “That when I knew I blew it,” he said. Joyce could have chosen to keep this information to himself; the umpire’s call stands, so admitting that he made a mistake would not change the outcome. Nevertheless, Joyce immediately asked to meet with Gallaraga, and apologized to him. Then, Gallaraga met with reporters and admitted to all of them that he had made a bad call.
What empowers a person to be so quick to admit a mistake to the person hurt by it? Somehow, in that moment when Joyce realized he had wronged Gallaraga, he was filled with the humility it takes to make an apology.
Both of these men demonstrated essential qualities of peacemaking: confession and forgiveness. And they did so immediately, almost instinctively.
I’m impressed. I have no idea whether either of these men is a follower of Jesus Christ and his teachings on confession (“first take the log out of your own eye”) and forgiveness (“forgive us our sins as we forgive those who have sinned against us”), but they illustrated them beautifully. I’m humbled by their examples. I’m not sure that I would’ve been so quick to forgive, nor so quick to apologize, especially publicly. I want to be like that.

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