At what point is "composure" for a pitcher a construct?
Last night, in the bottom of the fifth inning, Pearland, Texas pitcher Jonathan Newman just, well, cried. He began the fifth with his team leading, 6-3, just six outs away from advancing in the winner's bracket of the Little League World Series over local-turned-national media sensation Taney. But an error by his catcher allowed Taney's Jared Sprague-Lott to reach, prompting a visit from Pearland coach Don Smith. After some fielding advice for his catcher, Smith looked Newman in the eye and asked, "Can you get it done?"
And Newman nodded, but with eyes wide, and mouth shut.
He got ahead of Taney slugger Zion Spearman 0-2, but Spearman then smacked what was supposed to be a waste pitch way outside just fair (it took and umpire's video review, which was inconclusive) down the right field line for a double, knocking in Sprague-Lott.
A strikeout and a groundout later, it looked as if Newman could get out of the inning without further damage, although Spearman had advanced to third. But Taney's Kai Cummings, after taking some very close pitches, singled to center to narrow the lead to 6-5.
Newman had pitched where he wanted the ball to go. His defense and bad luck had turned against him. An energetic crowd of over 32,000 people and a national television audience were watching. The shutdown inning his coach had relied upon him to get did not happen.
So what would you do? And what would you have done at age 12? Newman cried.
The remarkable thing about Newman is that he kept on pitching through the tears. His teammates tried to calm him down. His coach tried to calm him down. But the televised closeups showed a boy simply... crying.
He walked Joe Richardson, but with two on and two out, he struck out Taney's star, Mo'ne Davis, looking to maintain the lead.
Of course, it brings to mind this:
and Twitter, you wonderful Twitter you, brought out the best in mankind once again:
Reason 106 why the LLWS is pathetic: the pitcher from Texas is crying on nat'l TV because he walked a batter— Kade McClure (@kademcc) August 18, 2014
My dad is yelling at the Texas kid through the tv because he's crying— Micki (@mickib16) August 18, 2014
This is such an exciting game but seeing this Texas kid crying while pitching makes you wonder if there's too much pressure on them.— Dave Zeitlin (@DaveZeitlin) August 18, 2014
And here's the thing: Internet, can you please not make a big deal out of the Texas pitcher crying? That's not what this week is about.— Sarah Baicker (@sbaickerCSN) August 18, 2014
Jonathan Newman.... THERE'S NO CRYING IN BASEBALL— MillTicketMike⚾️ (@_mikemillion) August 18, 2014
It's worth making a deal, if not a big deal, about this, and start the discussion about what "composure" really is. After all, Newman held on, both to himself and to the lead. He was able to control himself, as his sobs didn't get so out of control that it affected what he was doing much more than probably the walk to Richardson.
It's okay to show that you care. It's okay to kick the dirt a little when the breaks are going against you. Lord knows we've been treated to a parade of Phillies automatons whose pitches have been alternately all over the place or smacked to kingdom come, and we get... neutral. Beige. Nada, nothing.
It's okay to cry in baseball, so long as you keep your head in there playing.