MOUNDS VIEW, Minn. (WCCO) — A spontaneous display of friendship and sportsmanship has thrust a Mounds View High School baseball player in the national spotlight.
“It’s been insane. I never thought a story like this would blow up the way it did,” said senior pitcher Ty Koehn.
Last week in the section final, Koehn was on the mound against Totino-Grace High School. With a 4-0 lead and one out to go, he struck out the final batter for the win.
Koehn’s teammates stormed the field in a frenzy, but he ran to the plate.
“I didn’t think, I just ran over there, instinct. It felt like the right thing to do,” he said.
The batter was his childhood friend Jack Kocon. The two were teammates going back to little league. Koehn hugged a dejected Kocon, rattling off words of encouragement, while his Mounds View teammates celebrated in the background.
“He said ‘This isn’t on you. You played great the entire game. Keep your head up. You’re such a great player,’” Kocon recalled.
Koehn remembers telling his friend, “You had a great season, you’re a great player and don’t let this situation, don’t let this outcome affect our friendship. And I told him I loved him and he’s my brother and our friendship will always last longer than this silly game and its silly outcome.”
Videos of their embrace quickly spread on social media, with news agencies like ESPN and Sports Illustrated highlighting how the game’s final score took a back seat to friendship. Koehn’s gesture was not lost on his coach, Mark Downey.
“Whether this happened or not, I’d tell you Ty’s a high-character kid, wonderful human being,” said coach Downey. “He’s a tremendous competitor, but as you saw on the video, he understands there is a bigger picture and friendship really mattered to him.”
That national attention has Koehn’s teammates jokingly stealing hugs at practice, but he takes it in stride.
“It’s all good though, it’s all good making fun,” he said after another teammate shouted “Free hugs!”
He stands by what he considered “taking the less path taken” when he consoled his Kocon, who after strike three wasn’t his opponent anymore, but his friend.
“I was just thinking in 20 years I’m not gonna remember the score of that game. But I’m gonna remember (Koehn) coming up to me after that and just kind of being there for me when I needed someone,” said Kocon.