Saturday afternoon, I attended my 11-year-old brother’s baseball game. Few people knew at the time, but the first base umpire experienced chest pains during the game. He chose to continue in spite of the pain. In the bottom of the second inning, he had a heart attack.
I did not see him collapse. I’d walked away from my seat for a few moments, since my brother had already batted in the top of the second. I walked no more than 15 feet to join my mom in conversation. Looking back at the field, I noticed the umpire on the ground. At the same time, the coaches were beginning to recognize the situation. Several people rushed to his side and immediately realized the grave nature of his condition. Frantic attempts to reach 911 began. One parent in the crowd is a cardiac nurse, so she ran to his aide. Everyone else stood, dazed and frozen.
Not being near him, the rest of the crowd didn’t know what was happening. Within moments, the nurse began CPR on him.
One of the parents and I ran to the field. As he raced to the umpire’s side to help, I gathered the remaining kids still on the field and instructed them to go to the dugout. A few walked slowly, still gazing in mortified curiosity. I turned them toward the dugout and ordered them to go. I followed behind them. Once they were in, I blocked the entrance to the field. Later, when the ambulance arrived, some of the kids wanted to look and started for the dugout exit. I blocked their exit.
I don’t tell this story to gain admiration. I don’t have CPR skills, so I was no direct help to the umpire. I regret my one failure to act. I had the notion that we should get the kids out of the dugout and away from the scene. They didn’t need to see what was happening, but I didn’t act quickly enough and those kids saw what they didn’t need to see. My brother was one of those kids, so that regret will linger with me.
I tell this story because I want to highlight something wonderful. In the midst of tragedy, regular people stepped up to help a man in trouble. No one overstepped their skills because a man’s life was involved, but everyone did what they could to give him his best chance to live. No one wasted time delegating authority. No one asked permission to help. People saw a need and did what was necessary. Even when some in the crowd exhibited callous behavior during the crisis, the greater will stopped it with a stern look of intent.
Before the paramedics could take him from the field to a hospital, he died.
I’ve accepted the reality that I watched a man die. Though the change is small, I will never be the same.