Tuesday, July 3rd, 2007
11:15 pm - Five Random Things  
Snagged from snurri, with a theme as I wait for the Braves-Dodgers game to start.

When I hit the ball, I always used to carry the bat with me a step or two up the line as I headed for first. Most batters just drop the bat behind them at the end of the swing, leaving the bat somewhere in the vicinity of the batters box. My bats were always somewhere up the first base line. It was a totally unconscious action, and I never figured out where it came from. It certainly wasn't something I set out to do deliberately, since holding onto the bat while running tends to slow you down. Worse, I wasn't just bringing my left hand (with the bat in it) back around in front of me and releasing the bat, but I would actually transfer the bat to my right hand and then toss it sideways.

The best hitting day I ever had was the time I went 10-10 in a doubleheader, with 2 homers, a triple, and 2 doubles, nearly a double cycle.

One of the best fielding plays I ever made was also one of the dumbest. It was a tight game, there was a runner on third, and I was pitching. Things were desperate. I was usually the shortstop on that team. We were up a run in the last inning, and there was one out. I don't know what possessed me, but when I made the next pitch I charged the plate like a soccer goalie trying to cut down the angle. And it worked! Instead of hitting me in the face with a line drive, the batter hit a one hopper right at me. I looked the runner back to third, and threw the batter out. The next batter popped up and we won. And ever since I've wondered what the hell I was thinking about.

I did learn one thing about pitching. Based upon my empirical observations, a slow-pitch knuckleball will travel farther than any other pitch one might throw. Might just as well give the batter a tee.

When I started playing first base, I had a devil of a time with scooping throws in the dirt. Given the arms of my teammates, there were a lot of them, so it was a problem. I was spending a lot of time with my back to the field, chasing the ball down behind first base. The only saving grace was that at least I didn't have to try to catch my own numerous errant throws. This went on for most of a season. Then one night our shortstop threw one in the dirt, and I picked it. A couple of plays he did it again, and I picked it again. By the end of the game I'd managed to pick every single bad throw. The shortshop demanded to know what the hell happened, i.e., how the hell I'd gotten good, and I couldn't explain it. It happens too fast to really be a conscious action. It was as if the muscles and reflexes just finally got in sync and learned how the ball would react when it hit the ground. Also, once the body learned how to do it, I rarely missed one ever again. Very weird and neat at the same time.

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Hecubothecubot on July 4th, 2007 - 03:09 pm
A homerun hitting shortstop? You stud.

Here are five of my softball memories:

1. Growing up on the Air Force Base my dad umped the local softball games and I would hang out in the evenings watching. My sister (8 years older) would pick up a little extra money keeping score. I'd usually volunteer as bat boy and sometimes they'd give me a dollar. This was fast pitch softball, which you don't see with men very often anymore. The best team was usually the Medics and they'd bring serious heat on the mound.

2. In college my friend (later roommate) Chip and I would round up our friends on Sundays and go play a pickup game of softball. I had a bag of old gloves I'd inherited from my Dad but sometimes you'd just play barehanded. Curiously, we played the games in the fall between the start of the school year and Thanksgiving break. We'd drag people out of bed and away from their homework and off we'd go to the open fields the school owned down past the soccer fields. In our sophamore year sometimes we could only scrape four people together and we'd just have batting practice. By our senior year we could get 24 people down to the fields.

3. In those games, I developed a power stroke that I'd never had as a baseball player and could launch some big shots. But the biggest hitters were Todd (his little brother was the kid actor in Kramer vs. Kramer), Ann Erskine (big gal), and Doug (a star athlete in high school who'd suffered serious burns on his legs in a farm accident). I also played outfield for the first time and made many diving catches, which was just pure fun.

4. In one memorable game, my best friend Alex played the entire game nude. Another time when we only had 8 players, we had batting practice in front of the school's church, and managed to recruit passing professors to join us.

5. Years later, on a Memorial Day weekend picnic I fucked up my back carrying two cases of soda to the field and then played shortstop in a softball game. End result? I screwed my back up royally and it would cause me serious pain off and on for the next five years.

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DXMachinadxmachina on July 4th, 2007 - 06:27 pm
A homerun hitting shortstop? You stud.

Not so much. I was line drive hitter (a right-handed James Loney), and never did hit one over the fence in any of the town leagues I played in. In fact, except for a couple of tournaments where we played on college softball or soccer fields, all of my home runs came from gapping or burying outfielders on open fields. That's how I developed my personal contribution to the philosophy of hitting: if you can't hit 'em where they ain't, hit 'em at the foreign postdoc in right.
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Hecubothecubot on July 6th, 2007 - 12:57 am
Well, Emmett's one up on you (and me). He hit his first home run at the Concord tournament a couple weekends ago. Cleared the 205 foot fence by about 15 feet. Emmett's mostly about the line drives, but every once in a while he'll just get every bit of a pitch.

But I will pass your advice to him about aiming for the foreign postdoc.
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