A good pitcher will have three or four best pitches and he will use all of them throughout the game. There are different types of pitches for different types of batters. Mostly though, the role of the pitcher is to disguise the pitch the best way he can to try to get the batter to ground out, fly out, or the ever popular strikeout.
There are control pitchers who can dust off a fly on the inside corner. There are pitchers who can throw heat all game long and never get tired or hit off them. Then there are the Nolan Ryans who start great, only to get better as the game goes along. Then there are those who are wild in their attempts and never get anything across the plate.
The following is fiction, but it is also an analogy.
Two outs, bottom of the ninth, score tied. Runners were in scoring position. I was throwing some good heat through out the day, but now my arm was feeling like it was rubber. They were substituting their most reliable hitter: someone who, this past season, had lit me up like a Fourth of July celebration. I looked to my manager for some type of sign; worry was on my face. He came out to the mound and gave me some reassurance. “You’ll be fine, just take it one pitch at a time. You got good stuff.” Then he walked back to the dugout.
The batter dug in. I looked in for the sign. The catcher showed me fastball, inside corner. I went into my wind up, the pitch, -
"Ok Jim, just two more like that" I thought.
I looked in for the sign again. “fastball, inside corner” – we’re setting him up.
The wind up and the pitch - “BALL!”
The ball didn’t break the way I intended it to. It brushed back the batter with a close shave to the left cheek. He fell to the dirt. I threw him an apology, but it didn’t help, for when he got up, he gave me a look that said, “that one just cost you the game.” He dug himself in again and I look in for my sign.
The catcher showed me off speed, inside corner. “What are we doing to this guy?” I wondered. I waved off the sign. I looked in again for the sign. The catcher showed me the same sign. “Just shut up and pitch,” I told myself.
The wind up, the pitch – “STRIKE!”
One more pitch and the game, the series, would be ours. I looked in for the sign – “marzipan?”
The “marzipan” was a pitch of my own design. It was designed to have a high arch, like in slo-pitch, breaking right over the plate. I rarely used it; for one thing, it’s an insult to the batter. It is so soft that a five year old could clobber it. Second, if I missed the break, it’d have me looking like a buffoon when the batter crunched it.
I went into my wind up, pitched and…
It is said by some batters, that they see the ball as the size of a beach ball and it is moving about as fast as one. Thus, they can slow the pitch down enough in their minds’ eye to make contact with the ball. When they do, they can make the pitcher look like a bumbling idiot who can’t control anything, including their bodily functions.
From a pitcher’s point of view, there’s nothing more wretched than knowing you served up the wrong pitch at the wrong time, to the wrong batter. You can try to hide underneath the pitcher’s mound, but there just isn’t enough dirt to cover you. Your mind goes back to the scouting reports only to realize that you should have made that ball dance a little bit more. It’s still a poor excuse, because ultimately you are still responsible for the pitch.
You are all alone. You are depending on your wits and your athletic ability to get the ball where you want it to be. You try hiding your pitch as best as you can, only to surprise the batter with a ball that breaks where the batter least expects it to be.
Nevertheless, to survive in this game, you must be willing to accept the fact that there will be some batters who will light you up. You must study yourself to know how to get pass them, because you will see their kind throughout your career.
The late Dr. Walter Martin once said “You and I must be willing to take the blows and fiery arrows when it comes to defending the faith that saved us.” We can put up our best arguments for scripture or faith or any theological debate and serve them up across the plate, so to speak, and we must know the reason behind them. We just can’t walk into a lion's den of critics and quote John 3:16 without reason; they’ll have you for lunch and dinner.
However, there is that one time when we will be able to drive home that life changing thought, because it will have the Holy Spirit on it. It will be something so simple that the person never expects it. You will see a look on the face that will say –“what was that. I never saw that before” It is then that you must extend the grace that the Father has extended to all of us who call Him Father, because then you will not be facing a foe, but a brother or a sister.
Oh, by the way, even good batters can strike out against a beach ball when it is not expected!
My thanks to Bill Evans, brother, close friend, fellow redhead and technical advisor on the baseball analogy and life.
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Oh Brother Jim...I love baseball and I loved your article, much truth! Keep busting them inside Bro'! - Jay Cookingham