"Line drive, base hit to right!" screamed TNT play-by-play announcer Ernie Johnson as the ball rocketed toward Brewers rookie outfielder Trent Grisham. "That'll score one, that'll score two as the ball gets away from Grisham in right! That's gonna score three runs and the Washington Nationals have the lead! Incredible!"
Incredible, implausible, unbelievable, unfathomable, impossible: A season of hard work, a month of magic gone in a millisecond—a careless moment that undid everything.
It was an error—a routine play that Grisham should have made easily; that he’s made easily thousands of times before. In fact, in 42 games in the Major Leagues, it was the first error he made. But he made it in the biggest moment, and his careless millisecond cost his team what they had spent a season building.
An error is the cruelest occurrence in baseball: A bad hop, sun in the eyes, a split second’s hesitation or the tiniest movement in just a slightly wrong direction and a play, a game, a season, an entire career is ruined.
Errors define those who make them, from Fred Merkle to Bill Buckner to now Trent Grisham. He won’t be remembered this season for winning the Brewers Minor League Player of the Year A ward, for hitting 6 home runs and 24 RBIS while leading off for the Brewers as they made an impossible run to the playoffs.
Trent Grisham will be remembered this season for his error. It’s cruel, but it’s baseball. And, in a funny way, it’s life. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, no matter how much we succeed, we’re remembered for our errors, especially if we make them in the biggest moments.
But our errors don’t necessarily define us. How we respond to them does. Do we make excuses for them? Do we blame others for them? Or do we accept responsibility for them, internalize them, and, most importantly, learn from them so that we don’t make the same ones again?
Making errors is what makes us human, but owning up to and making up for them makes us better.
And Trent Grisham is trying, fighting back tears as he explained just what went wrong.
"I was getting ready to throw to home and came in a little off-balance, " he said after the Brewers 4-3 loss knocked them out of the National League playoffs Tuesday night. "It kind of took a little funny hop on me and just because I came in off-balance I didn't really gather myself and the ball got by me and I just went back there and tried to get it as quickly as I could."
His error was trying to do too much; trying to make the throw before the ball was in his glove. It’s an error that happens from Little League to the Big Leagues.
"I came in a little too qu ickly and didn't really break down and it took a funny hop on me and I just wasn't able to recover," Grisham explained.
He offered no excuses; he blamed no one else but himself. He could have easily pointed out that the bases loaded hit reliever Josh Hader allowed would have tied the game even if he fielded the ball cleanly. He could have hinted that Hader’s inability to find the strike zone in the 8th inning likely would have cost the Brewers the lead anyway. He could have made excuses for the Brewers bats being unable to put the game out of reach early when Nationals starter Max Scherzer was clearly struggling.
But he didn’t. He put the blame entirely on himself.
"It's going to sting," he said. "It's going to sting for a long time--essentially gifting the Nationals a Divisional berth--it's going to hurt. I expect it to really hurt when I debrief and go into the offseason."
His hurt should be a lesson to all of us. Errors do hurt—they hurt our pride and they hurt those who depend on us—but we begin to make up for them when we apologize for them and accept the consequences of them.
For Grisham, that meant apologizing to his teammates and then facing a throng of national and local media just minutes after the most embarrassing moment of his life.
"It hurt," he said. "It's not how you want your first playoff game to go. We expected to win. There's all kinds of thoughts and emotions that run through your head. It just kind of stings right now."
That sting is the shame of failure, but Grisham’s accountability for his failure should be a source of pride—and a model for Little Leaguers who don’t watch the ball all the way into their glove, for office workers who forget to bring a key part of the presentation, for anyone and everyone (and it is everyone) who has ever made an error.
The best we can do is to fight back the tears, apologize, hold our head as high as we can, learn, and grow.
"It will definitely help me develop and grow and really see every little decision, every little facet of the game," Grisham sighed, "and really just pay attention to all the little things."