Bernie Williams has been with the New York Yankees since 1991, and that’s longer than any other player on the fabled baseball team’s current roster. The switch-hitting center fielder plays his defensive position gracefully to chase down what look for all the world like base hits and turn them into fly-ball outs.
Then he steps up to the plate with a piece of lumber in his strong hands. On any given pitch, he can crush an opposing pitcher’s best offering into the seats of Yankee Stadium or any other ballpark in the major leagues. In last week’s Game 5 of the American League Championship Series, he swung at a fastball and catapulted it into left-center field for a two-run homer in a 12-3 win over the Seattle Mariners that put the Yankees into the World Series again.
All right. You’ve found me out. I’m a baseball fan. And the you-either-love- ’em-or-you-hate-’em Yankees have been my favorite team since I was a little boy. And I know Bernie Williams because he is a member of “my” team. But that’s not really the point of why I brought up his name. Even if you don’t like baseball or are a Yankee-hater, I think you’ll like this story about Bernie.
In the midst of all the death, heartache, and tears of New York City after the events of Sept.11, manager Joe Torre took a van load of his players to a National Guard Armory. There, Families of the missing were supplying materials, they hoped would make possible DNA identification of their daughters, fathers, and siblings.
“We didn’t know how we’d be received, so we waited outside the armory in a van and had someone give us a feel of when to enter,” Torre said. “All of a sudden the people looked up and opened their arms to us. The most touching moment was when Bernie (Williams) went up to one woman and said, ‘I don’t know what to say, but you look like you need a hug.’ And he hugged her.”
You’re right. Bernie probably wasn’t at risk for that hug, but you might be in today’s workplace. Sexual harassment is sometimes imagined and often real. But there other ways to acknowledge and affirm our brothers and sisters in the human family. Handshakes, high-fives, memos, just a simple “Thank you,” or a sincere “Can I help?” will do. There’s not one of us who doesn’t need the rest of us.
Playing professional baseball must be fun. Getting a game-winning hit has to be exhilarating. Encouraging and comforting fellow-strugglers is sacred.