Resilience Pays Dividends
by: Wes Froeschner – Sports Editor
The most exciting day of regular season baseball ever. That is what a lot of people are calling September 28, 2011. And not just Cardinal fans in St. Louis, as most of us know what happened on this day, but baseball fans across the nation.
We as sports fans witnessed something that had never happened before. Two enormous collapses the likes no one has ever seen by the Atlanta Braves and the Boston Red Sox. The Red Sox at one point had a nine game lead in the standings over the Tampa Bay Rays, while the Braves had an eight and a half game lead at the same time over our very own St. Louis Cardinals. What transpired leading up to the 28th was unforgettable, but the night itself was what set this season apart from any other that we’ve seen.
Let’s start with the Rays, who had to come back from a nine game deficit just to be in the position to make the postseason. They went into Wednesday tied for the Wild Card lead with the Red Sox, but they had to play the first-place Yankees, while the Red Sox had the easier job of playing the lowly Baltimore Orioles. The odds were greatly in Boston’s favor.
As both of the games started, the Rays seemed to be in an even tighter position. New York jumped ahead 7-0 early on in the game, and seemed to never look back. Meanwhile, the Red Sox were beating the Orioles 3-2 until a rain delay in the 7th inning caused the game to be delayed. The Rays were on their way to losing, and the Red Sox game could be stopped at any minute, which would give Boston the Wild Card.
But Tampa wasn’t out just yet. In the bottom of the eighth, out of nowhere, the Rays bust loose for six runs. It was miraculous, but it seemed to be too little, too late. They were still down, and it seemed as though the Yankees had won. But not so fast. In the bottom of the ninth, down to their last strike, .119 hitter Dan Johnson smacks a pitch out to the right field bleachers, and the game is tied.
Just before, the Red Sox game had resumed and they had coughed up their lead to the last place Orioles and had lost the game. Now, all that mattered was the Rays game. They didn’t have to wait long, as four minutes later, their fate had been sealed. In the bottom of the twelfth, star third baseman Evan Longoria hit a line drive out of the park to give the Rays the win and the Wild Card.
How could anything be possibly more exciting in baseball, you ask? If the same thing happened again the same night, that would be pretty exciting. Oh wait, it did.
The Cardinals had, just like the Rays, fought long and hard in September to overcome incredible odds. They came back from an eight and a half game deficit to be at the position on Wednesday to win the National League Wild Card playoff position. St. Louis got to play the dreadful Astros, while the Braves had to play the best team in baseball, the Philadelphia Phillies.
St. Louis’s game was a blow-out, as the won 8-0 with a dominating performance by veteran pitcher Chris Carpenter. Atlanta, however, was winning their game 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth. Then, Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel lost the lead, and the game was tied. The Braves eventually went on to complete their late season debacle in the twelfth inning when Phillies outfielder Hunter Pence hit a wimpy single just out of the reach of second baseman Dan Uggla to score the winning run.
A lot of people may look at this day and say, “So what? It’s just a day of baseball. Why should I care?”
You might not care about the actual games, but there are lessons to be learned in watching these games, just as there are lessons to be learned in sports all the time. The Rays and the Cardinals never gave up during the long season, even when most of the country had pretty much proclaimed the Red Sox and Braves winners.
Resiliency is an important characteristic that everyone should try to develop. No matter how much you think you’re down, you’re never out.