Game 14: Shame

Phil Hughes pitched Tuesday night at Target Field. He’s a fly-ball pitcher, and in the first inning, one of those fly balls came Max Kepler’s way in right field. Max biffed biffed it, spotting Cleveland to a 3-0 lead in the first inning.

Our Twins aren’t in Cleveland’s class, but to remain relevant this season (read: pay off my “over 74.5 wins” wager) they likely will need to steal a quarter or third of their games against the Racist Mascots. Such theft isn’t likely if they’re giving away runs in the first inning.

OK, so Max messed up. Obviously, he feels pretty bad about the whole thing. No need to dwell on it … or is there, Twins beat writers?

“Took my eyes off it. Made a mistake. Stuff happens.”

That’s Kepler’s no-shit quote in the Pioneer Press’ fourth paragraph. LaVelle E. Neal The Third offers a scrubbed version in the Strib. Makes you wonder if they drew straws in the press box to determine who’d ask Max what happened on that fly ball. (And who lost?)

In the beat writers’ defense, it’s entirely possible our man responds with something like:

“Had my mind on Trump. What’s with Syria? Those Russians …”

I haven’t spent any meaningful time around Max. The closest I got was in the Arizona Fall League two years ago. I watched him play three straight games – all meaningless, according to his countryman Fred Nietszche – and never saw the guy crack a smile once.

He seems a serious sort. Certainly, he’s professional in his approach – one that’s served him well, even if it might lend itself to an appearance of dispassion.

An outfielder knows he’ll miss some fly balls throughout the course of a year. A plumber knows sometimes he’ll fail to fix the clog. Asking for an explanation is an exercise in futility; what you’re really looking for with that question – what happened on the fly ball? why can’t you fix my toilet? – is humility.

Professionals understand failure is a part of the job. You can only hope to limit it.

But Max showed no shame Tuesday night, and I find it pretty fascinating. I’m witnessing — that’s too passive a word for the father involved in this story, but whatever — my 3-year-old daughter’s sense of shame develop. Had she butchered that ball in right field, let me tell you, she’d have curled up in a ball on the outfield grass and left a dead spot.

It’s a fine line, shame and humility. Obviously, I don’t want my daughter to feel ashamed about anything she does at this stage in her life, but I want to guide her toward making responsible choices. I’m not much on shame, but if it’s a path toward humility …

… I’d better read up on the subject. Go Wild.

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