When being right is wrong

By Reade Brower | Jul 02, 2020

Managing people has never been in my comfort zone. Over the years, trying to honor people by not putting square pegs in round holes has been the goal. It’s been about trying to meet people where they are and trying to understand being right isn’t always noble or important.

At a Hyde School (high school in Bath, Maine) seminar where parents and students participate together during family weekends, in what amounts to group family counseling, I was challenged with “would you rather be right, or would you rather be loved” as I struggled (still do) with humility and defensive qualities I don’t want to define me.

In that moment it was clear; the aspiration of being right isn’t always important, or where I wanted the weight of my foot to be.

I don’t know it all. In fact, who am I to pontificate to readers or staff about lofty matters. I’m the one last week who put the men in my co-ed softball team in a pickle, literally; they were caught and tagged out in a rundown between second and third base.

Our co-ed softball league has a few strict rules; one is men must use wooden bats. Last year there was controversy because some teams bought bats with wood barrels that had composite handles and one of our lead umpires felt some of the women’s aluminum bats were on the banned list.

This season the league gave teams a list of bats on the banned list for women and ruled the men’s bat with the composite handle, called the “Corndog,” would be allowed. I thought I should buy one for our team, went on Amazon and did just that.

In an early season game, one of my men players blasted one into the road and the umpire, looking at the bat lying on the ground, called me over to declare my batter out, taking the home run away from him, and informing me the bat he used was not legal.

As I quietly protested that this was the Corndog and other teams had it, the umpire told me firmly the women could use it but not the men, and the game continued. After the game, I spoke with the other manager and one of his players who was familiar with the Corndog bat because his team last year had one. He confirmed that this indeed was not a Corndog.

Later, my son helped me figure out what had happened. I had gone online to buy the Corndog and pressed the wrong button, instead buying the bat underneath it. I spent the rest of the night writing letters to the other manager thanking him for being “cool” and asking him if we could replay the game, I would pay the umpire expense and we could find a mutually acceptable date in our schedules. I called the league president and left a message and followed with an email. I apologized to my team; what a position I had put the lads in by insisting this bat was “OK.” I wrote an email to the rest of the league; being a “rules guy,” it was embarrassing and humbling. I hope my apology didn’t have a “but” in it.

I was thankful to the umpire for handling it gracefully and for discovering it early in the season, against an understanding team. The big thing I am grateful for is that instead of hitting a monster blast, my batter didn’t hit one up the middle and injure the opposing pitcher. That is why men were mandated to stop using aluminum bats 15-plus years ago. The bat I introduced was not metal but what I thought was painted wood was described as a “fiber barrel” on the Amazon site where I bought the bat.

In any case, mea culpas to the other team and its manager, the league president for having to get involved, the league for breaking the rule, and especially to my male players, several who questioned it, only to have me insist it was the Corndog bat that several other teams were using.

The other manager has given me the thumbs up, his response that there is no need to replay and to move on. I appreciate that and know that might not have been the case with all teams. At our next game, I hope I can rally with my team and see their perspective now that time has passed. It felt raw after my mistake was discovered; none of my teammates wanted an unfair advantage or to break rules. They were listening to me, someone who was sure he was right.

On another note, it’s good to be out on the ball field again; anytime we get to live “what was” is sweet. The Wings can’t go out after games as a team as the bars are closed, but we’ll take any bit of normalcy we can find.

*****

“It is unwise to be too sure of one’s own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.” — Mahatma Gandhi

 

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