Never Judge A Book By Its Cover

Allen Buck
Author, coach, sports broadcaster; helping youth learn life lessons through the metaphor of sports.

Jun 05,2018

John was one of my football players. When I gave him that, “toughen up,” speech, as coaches tend to do, I saw more bobble head doll than hard-nosed football player. Fast-forward a couple of years. John came to play baseball for me. He had grown a little but he was still very thin and without the shoulder pads, there was just not much to him. He was anything but physically imposing. Do not be fooled. Focus on people’s deeds, not their shiny exterior package.

It was the middle of July and the hottest day of the year. (Hey, I’m telling the story so if I want it to be the hottest day of the year, then it was, by golly.) The temperature was well into the 90s with humidity to match.

We started John at pitcher. We led 6 – 2 in the middle of the fifth and sweat-ball John was cruising. In the bottom half of the fifth, they got a runner to third base with one out. John threw a passed ball and immediately, players were sprinting for home plate.

Their runner was charging hard from third. John dashed to the plate as the catcher retrieved the ball. The catcher threw wide to the third base side of the plate. This caused John to dive to make the catch. As he did this, the base runner went into his slide.

The ball and both players arrived at the plate at the same time. As John dove for the ball, the runner slid right into John, kicking him hard right in the ribs. The soaking wet John (complete with his glasses) went rolling in the opposite direction and all you could see was a big cloud of dust. From somewhere in the middle of the dust cloud, you could distinctly hear John say rather matter-of-factly, “That’s going to hurt in the morning,” as he continued rolling to a halt.

The runner was safe. John got up and walked back to the mound. Notice I didn’t say, “He dusted himself off?” There was no dusting him. He was mud covered. We wiped him off, checked his health, and got out of his way. He had a ball game to win. He did, 7 – 3, and he pitched a complete game.

The most remarkable thing about this game is John’s character. How he reacted to a brutal collision that would have sidelined many players impressed me so much that I am relating it to you fifteen years after it happened. He was one tough competitor, but you couldn’t tell it by his outward demeanor. This mild-mannered kid was as hard-nosed as any of my players in any sport, but he surely did not look it. (I’ll never forget that bobble-head look.)

Never judge a book by its cover – in anything you do.


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