During a recent industry mega-conference, I took a break from the afternoon sessions to track down and enjoy a soft, chunky chocolate chip cookie from the Bouchon Bakery down the hallway from the conference meeting rooms. As I turned a corner, I spotted a super-sized TV on which I could see a baseball game – the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers. Game 5, the deciding game of their end of season playoff series. At stake: A trip to the American League Championship Series. I stepped in closer to see the score. 7th inning, score tied at 2 – 2 with the Texas go-ahead runner, Roughned Odor, perched on third base.
Just at that moment, Toronto pitcher Aaron Sanchez threw a pitch to Texas batter Shin-Soo Choo. High, for a ball. As I started to turn away, Toronto catcher Russell Martin threw the ball toward his pitcher, Sanchez, and the ball hit Choo’s bat and rolled into the field. Odor, believing the ball to be a “live ball,” immediately sprinted toward home and stepped on home plate, scoring the go-ahead run, possibly sending Texas to the American League Championship Series. Big stakes.
Eager to see the outcome and unable to hear the broadcast commentary from where I was standing, I stood, frozen, watching the screen. Brief views of Toronto fans in the stands suggested they were crazy upset, booing gustily. The umpires convened to review the play. After a few moments, they confirmed: Run scored.
I’d never seen such a thing. What rule was that?
As I walked down the hall, still buzzing from what I’d just seen, I spotted a fellow conference participant, a ‘probably couldn’t get past his gatekeeper’ senior executive at a company we’d like to do business with, To this point, I’d not found a way to introduce myself and open a conversation.
I headed straight for him.
“Hi!” I said, enthusiastically greeting him like an old friend. “Are you a baseball fan?”
He looked a little stunned. “Well, yes, I am.”
“Great,” I gushed. “I’ve just seen something in the Blue Jays game I don’t understand. Maybe you know the rule involved. I sure don’t.”
“OK,” he replied, and stepped in a little closer. I replayed the scene for him.
“I have no idea about the rule,” he concluded. “Are you a fan, yourself?”
“Boston Red Sox, now temporarily rooting for Chicago Cubs,” I responded.
And we were off and running.
Later in the conference, finding him alone for a moment, I swooped in to share what I’d learned about the play – that the rule involved was ‘obstruction” and that the umpires ruled correctly. This led to another discussion and, eventually, a conversation about our respective businesses and interest in speaking again after the Conference.
Sometimes, potential conversation bridges appear briefly, like a firefly blinks on a summer evening, lasting only a few seconds. It wouldn’t have mattered whether he answered the question, “Are you a fan?”, with a “yes” or a “no.” I’d crossed the conversation bridge in the moment.
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