Those are words that have been said millions of times. Each of us have said them a thousand times following various screw ups, even. But hearing those words out of Armando Galarraga's mouth this morning impacted me in a new way.
Galarraga pitches for the Detroit Tigers. He's not a great pitcher. Probably not even a good pitcher (compared to other major leaguers, of course). But he pitched the game of his life last night. He was on the verge of history. Attempting to throw the 21st perfect game in major league history, he entered the bottom of the 9th having retired all 24 Cleveland hitters who had stepped to the plate. The 25th man to the plate was Mark Grudzielanek (stop trying to pronounce it. it's not that important) and he hit a blast into the left-center field gap. Centerfielder Austin Jackson ran faster than I'm sure he has ever run before and made an unbelievable over-the-shoulder catch to keep the perfect game alive. The next batter grounded out harmlessly to short. Then this happened...
Umpires, referees, and officials in general catch blame for losses daily. Rarely are those accusations accurate, though. But in this case, the umpire, Jim Joyce, cost a pitcher his perfect game. That out would have ended the game and secured Galarraga's place in history. Joyce is an excellent excellent umpire, too. He has twice been voted the second best umpire in the game....by the players. I'm gonna assume that this is not the first incorrect call that he has made but I am positive that no one will remember any of them better than that one.
You could see the disappointment in all of the Tigers' faces. You would have expected Galarraga to explode in rage after the call was made. He had to know that Jason Donald was out. He had to feel his foot hit the bag before Donald's. But he didn't erupt. The camera caught him smiling in an almost awkward stare down with Joyce. And in the locker room, before showering off, he uttered those words-"no one's perfect"- to a reporter who, undoubtedly, was looking for an expletive filled quote from the pitcher. He was still sweaty from the action of the game but did have a few extra minutes to let the realization sink in that his perfect game had been taken away by a bad call. A time that most people would use to become enraged about the whole situation. Not him. And how fitting it is that he said "no one's "perfect."
He never showed one bit of frustration toward Joyce. Possibly because Joyce found him in the locker room after the game- immediately after the umpire watched the replay of the call- and embraced the pitcher and wrapped him in a hug and began sobbing. He apologized repeatedly. He admitted his mistake and showed how awful he felt about the situation. And today, in a much more public form, Galarraga showed that he had no hard feelings by delivering the lineup card to Joyce at home plate. The delivery of the lineups is generally done by the coaches, all umpires are present, and the event signifies it's time to start the game so all eyes were on home plate at that time. It was a simple gesture but one that brought Joyce to tears again.
Galarraga showed more forgiveness than was required. No one would have been shocked if he had showed anger or frustration towards Joyce. But he took the high road. He showed the courage and integrity that I hope I would be able to show. That I should be able to show. That I fail to show again and again. He set an example for players to follow. He set an example for fans to follow. He set an example for Christians to follow. He set an example for me to follow.
Galarraga managed to turn something devastating into the most positive, encouraging thing of the year. A quality that I strive to obtain.