In the vast library of amateur baseball highlights, you’d be hard-pressed to come up with a weirder — or more touching — highlight than this one.
On Wednesday night, two Minnesota high school baseball teams were facing each other in a regional championship game. The winner would go on to the state tournament, and the loser would go home. The team from Mounds View High School celebrated like crazy after they won 4-0 over Totino-Grace High School — except for one Mounds View player. Check out what happened between the pitcher and the batter after the final strikeout:
— Bring Me The Sports (@BMTNSports) June 8, 2018
How often do you see the winning pitcher walk away from a team celebration to hug the losing batter? I’m willing to bet never. Here’s another angle of the end-of-game hug:
— Yahoo Sports (@YahooSports) June 11, 2018
According to Joe Nelson at Bring Me The News, the winning pitcher and hugger was Ty Koehn, and the batter was Jack Kocon. The two have been close friends since their early teens, which gives the hug a lot more context. Nelson spoke to Koehn about the hug, and Koehn revealed that his friendship with Kocon was the only thing on his mind when he dealt that final pitch.
“We are very close friends,” Koehn told BMTN. “I knew him from all the way back when we were 13. We were on the same little league team. It was tough when we went to separate schools but we kept in touch.”
“I knew the game was going to keep going or it was going to end right there,” Koehn added. “I knew I had to say something. Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game. I had to make sure he knew that before we celebrated.”
“It was more instinct, it just felt right.”
Winning a spot at the state championship was important, but to Koehn, making sure he reached out to his friend in a difficult moment was more important. There would be time to celebrate, but he only had that one moment to comfort his friend when he needed it most.
Mounds View coach Mark Downey was proud of his star pitcher, as you might expect.
“Ty’s actions the other night do not surprise me and are reflective of what I might expect from any one of the players on the team,” Downey said in an email to BMTN. “All really great kids, just a joy to be around on a daily basis.”
Coach Downey might not have been surprised by Koehn’s act of sportsmanship, but it’s still a weird thing to see. A pitcher wins an important game and walks away from his celebrating teammates to comfort the batter he just struck out? That’s truly rare. But it’s a testament to the power of friendship, and a reminder that for kids, baseball can still be just a game.
– – – – – –
More from Yahoo Sports:
• Braves star robbed of more than $100K while pitching
• Former Patriots lineman Jones dies at 39
• Clemens’ homer-mashing kid is taunting everyone
• Jeff Passan: Is one genius’ dramatic proposal the way to fix MLB?