'Something So Simple' Earns Cheers for High School Athlete

After a heartbreaking loss, this Va. baseball catcher's handshake with ump went viral
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 16, 2022 7:31 AM CDT
Heartbreaking Loss, Then a Handshake That Went Viral
Stock photo.   (Getty/Scukrov)

Ask catcher Eric Fila and he'll shrug off his post-loss handshake with the umpire as no big deal. But a video of his gesture now has nearly a million views and is earning the high school baseball player from Virginia pats on the back for his sportsmanship in the face of defeat. Fila, about to enter his senior year at West Springfield, was behind home plate last week as his team faced off against Herndon in the state quarterfinals, meaning the game was a pretty important one. The Washington Post reports the match had stretched into the 10th inning when a walk-off single by a Herndon player suddenly ended the game—but it was Fila's automatic instinct to turn to umpire Homer Gaouette and extend his hand that soon caught attention.

That's because Steve Beasley, the announcer for the game, posted video of the gesture to Twitter, and it immediately started circulating. Two days later, the clip of Fila and Gaouette's handshake was shown on the live local NBC broadcast of the Phillies-Brewers game, with the play-by-play guy calling Fila's handshake a show of "class and respect" at "his team's worst moment." Gaouette calls Fila a "good kid," adding, "It's rare that you get somebody who has that much sportsmanship, especially in a big game." Fila, for his part, calls the video's spread "nuts," telling the Post that what he did is "something so simple." "It's the standard, in my eyes, and it's gone everywhere," he notes. He even texted his coach, "This is what I'm supposed to do and now everyone's going crazy over it."

Fila's actions even earned him an editorial in the local Free Lance-Star, which dove into the weeds as to why such a basic show of sportsmanship has drawn so much attention. "Perhaps it's because we're dangerously close to totally abandoning respectful treatment of others," the piece muses, calling for less name-calling and more listening and "precision in our language" to tamp down the temperature in polarizing times. "Our collective rush down this rabbit hole of dehumanization will not be easily stemmed," the editorial notes. "No election is going to end it. No catchphrase is going to wake us up. It begins with an earnest handshake at the end of a hotly contested match." (More uplifting news stories.)

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