Well folks, late in the afternoon of June 16 at the Dick Putz Field in St. Cloud at the Minnesota State High School League Class AA State Baseball Tournament, time suddenly stood still for me.
It was the fifth inning and coach Jeremy Janzen was walking to the mound to put the closing touch on an incredible outing for junior pitcher Jesse Goettig.
Twenty hours earlier, he had informed Goettig that he would be the starting pitcher in arguably the biggest game in Gobbler baseball history. Although a little nervous, he provided his team and hundreds of fans a courageous and gutsy performance, despite leaving with a 4-1 deficit.
As he hugged his coach and the teammates that had gathered and headed off the field, he tipped his hat and the emotion of the moment hit him hard. Almost as one, the crowd began to stand and applaud and his teammates and coaches in the dugout came out to greet him with hugs and high fives.
That single moment on a beautifully sunny day will define the 2021 Aitkin Gobbler baseball team and live in our hearts forever.
Wearing my emotions on my shoulder as I always seem to do, a tear or two welled up in my eyes because I understood what this game meant and what his effort meant to his team.
We stood for a couple of minutes and tears turned to smiles because we had all witnessed a wonderful moment and had shared it with a young kid who had given his all – and more – to try to win the game for his team.
This is why I love high school sports and always will. The heart, the desire and the fight that young people show, game in and game out, is what keeps this old heart beating.
The result of this game was a loss but only on the scoreboard. Jesse Goettig showed us what life is all about, having the courage to face a job head on and doing your best no matter what the outcome might be. Winning is always better but sometimes losing teaches us a lot more.
I’m here to tell you it doesn’t get any better than this.