Writing about sports at any level is an inherently fun job.
I love it. Whether it be elementary school, high school, college or professional, there is an adrenaline and pride in watching that event, taking what you saw and turning it into an entertaining, coherent story for someone who didn’t attend the game.
Sure, writing on deadline isn’t the most fun, but it sure gets the adrenaline going!
As a sports writer, however, there’s one thing that simply does not get any easier, no matter how many times you do it.
Talking to an athlete after any loss can be tough. They might be emotional, might not say much, or in some cases, not have anything to say at all.
But then there are losses like the one the Br. Rice High School baseball team endured in the summer state title game on July 25 at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg.
Finishing out a game that was originally started July 21 but was postponed for four days, the Crusaders found themselves in a tie game in the bottom of the seventh.
With a runner on third and only one out, Coach John McCarthy pushed all the right baseball buttons in hopes of getting out of the inning unscathed and going to extras.
Star pitcher Ryan Kutt intentionally walked the next two batters he faced to set up a force-out at any base or potentially an inning-ending double play.
It appeared to be working when shortstop Ryan King came up firing on an infield grounder to get an out at home. The Crusaders were one out away from extras and looked like they might get out of the situation.
Kutt’s first pitch to the next batter bounced in front of the plate and got away from Br. Rice catcher Jake Ridgway, allowing the Plainfield South runner to score the state title-clinching run.
I’ve never seen a game end like that, much less a championship game.
I snapped several pictures of Kutt and his teammates shaking hands and walking off the field. After McCarthy addressed the team, the Crusaders trudged back to the dugout to pack up and hit the road.
I asked Kutt, “Hey, Ryan, can I talk to you for a second?”
The Illinois recruit didn’t pause or even slow down. With a quick “Sure,” he turned and joined me and several other reporters who had to ask him questions about a championship game lost on a wild pitch.
Kutt owned the moment.
He answered each and every question with thoughtful, intelligent answers while Plainfield South celebrated its title up the third-base line.
He didn’t pout or shake off questions or blame anyone. He stepped up.
Sometimes, baseball, and sports in general, just don’t go your way. Kutt especially was thinking about his recently graduated teammates and knew how they would have reacted in a similar situation.
“Guys like Mike Massey, Andrew Dyke, Jack Nelligan, if we got those guys back here they would all say the same thing. ‘Give it your all and leave it all out on the field,’” Kutt said. “I know they did. Sometimes things don’t go your way, and it can change the outcome of the game. It did today.”
Say whatever you want about a summer state title versus the Illinois High School Association title, but a championship game is a championship game.
Kutt and his teammates deeply wanted to win, especially after a tough spring season came to a close in a sectional final game against rival St. Laurence.
It does not matter what the season is; a state title is a state title.
Kutt was not alone in his postgame sentiment with King and Zach Litke backing him up in separate interviews. A loaded Br. Rice baseball team is already looking forward to the 2016-17 spring season.
The Plainfield South loss will no doubt leave a bad taste in their mouths, but that can definitely be a good thing.
“This builds a ton of confidence,” Kutt said. “It sucks to lose the state title, but this is mojo for us coming back next spring. We’re there. One extra rep, one extra swing, one extra throw. We just have to execute and make the plays.”
That’s the beauty of summer baseball. Coaches want to see the team grow, learn and develop while the players are constantly looking to improve while hopefully laying claim to their roles in the spring season.
As Kutt and his teammates discovered, baseball is not always pretty and wrapped up with a nice, little bow. It can be messy and hard to take.
Even in a difficult situation, Kutt maturely stepped into the spotlight and handled the moment. He’s a credit to his school and the game of baseball.
More than a few college and professional athletes should take note.