Ty Koehn had just struck out the final batter in a win that sent his high school squad to the state tournament. But as his teammates spilled onto the field to celebrate, leaping with joy and tossing their mitts high in the air, the senior pitcher headed straight for home plate — and shared an extended hug with the dejected batter.
To Koehn, “it just felt right,” because the player he struck out was no mere opponent but a close friend. Captured on video, the extraordinary moment of friendship, not to mention sportsmanship, went viral Monday as it touched the hearts of far more than those in attendance last week at CHS Field in St. Paul, Minn.
“I knew the game was going to keep going or it was going to end right there,” Koehn, of Mounds View High, said to Bring Me the News. “I knew I had to say something. Our friendship is more important than just the silly outcome of a game. I had to make sure he knew that before we celebrated.”
Koehn told BMTN that he and the player he struck out, Jack Kocon of Totino-Grace High, “are very close friends,” adding, “I knew him from all the way back when we were 13. We were on the same Little League team. It was tough when we went to separate schools, but we kept in touch.”
Of making a beeline for Kocon to offer an emotional hug, Koehn said, “It was more instinct, it just felt right.”
The game, played on Wednesday, pitted schools located about a 10-minute drive from each other in the Twin Cities area, and it was the final one in the Section 5AAAA tournament. The top seed, Totino-Grace had beaten Mounds View several days earlier in the sections semifinals — with Kocon delivering a game-winning hit in the 13th inning — but the latter squad stayed alive and then swept a pair of games Wednesday to move on to state, with Koehn leading the way.
Describing Koehn as an “outstanding young man” with “high character,” the head coach of Mounds View, Mark Downey, told The Washington Post via email, “I was not surprised at all by Ty’s actions the other night. And, frankly, I’m very fortunate to be coaching a whole team of great young men; any one of whom I wouldn’t have been surprised by doing what Ty did or similar.”
Downey added that while Koehn is “receiving a great deal of attention,” the multisport star, a football captain last fall, said Wednesday, “I won’t let this be a distraction from what we’re trying to accomplish.”
Of the attention the viral videos have generated, Downey said: “His teammates are having fun with it. Today at practice I heard a lot of laughter with comments like, ‘Ty, I need a hug.’ Or, ‘There goes that player that didn’t have anyone to celebrate with.’ ”
The next game for Koehn and Mounds View arrives Thursday, when they take on Stillwater in Minnesota’s Class AAAA tournament.