Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Day 296: Baseball for Beginners: Lesson #1 - The Pitchers

As far as I'm concerned, the football season is over. Super Bowl Sunday will be for eating and critiquing commercials. The Olympics start in two and a half weeks, and then baseball is back. Red Sox Truck Day is February 8th and pitchers and catchers report a week later on February 15th. It's right around the corner and it fills my heart with glee!

But with the impending start to the 2014 baseball season, comes a rather sad occurrence. It will mark the end of my Balls of All Sizes quest for 365—a quest that is looking pretty attainable at this point in time. There are just ten Tuesdays left in this journey and in that time, I'm determined to make some unsuspecting non-sports loving reader a baseball fan for life. Yes, there are people I've threatened who don't like sports but still read this blog. Expanding horizons, or something like that.

Honestly, there are so many posts I can write about the rules and plays and nuances in baseball, I could probably concentrate on just baseball for the rest of my days, but some readers might get a tad bored by reading shit they already know. I figure if you know the players and what they do, that's half the battle right there. All the rest will fall into place. Maybe. If not, you know where to find me.

So without further ado, I bring you the first installment of Baseball for Beginners. I'm going to start with the PITCHER mainly because (a) he's a pretty integral part of the team, and (b) he's known on the score card as position #1 so it's a natural place to start. He stands on the mound in the middle of the infield and throws (or pitches) the ball to the catcher (more about him next week) and those pitches are judged by the know-it-all umpire (who stands behind home plate) as either balls (four balls are bad) or strikes (three strikes are good.) His goal is to get the batter out and keep the opposing team from scoring runs. Runs are bad. Outs are good. Strikeouts are even better.

Pitchers also control the pace of the game. When a pitcher is on his game and retiring batters, the game just flies by. But get a couple guys on base and he becomes preoccupied with those base runners. This is when baseball gets tedious and makes you want to throw your full $8 beer at the pitcher's head. You want a pitcher who gets the ball and throws the ball. You don't want a pitcher who stares down his catcher, shakes off signs and steps off the mound too often. He's obviously uncomfortable with his situation and often times, nothing good comes of it.

The pitcher can also be a whiny bitch. If things aren't going his way, if the umpire has a strike zone the size of a quarter, it can send him over the edge. He can be fiery. He'll roll his eyes, throw up his hands and be generally two-year-old-ish if he's not getting his way. Pitchers have also been known to throw shit, knock over water coolers or worse, sulk. And don't talk to him in the dugout, especially if he's flirting with a no-hitter. Men have been killed for just thinking about a no-hitter.

He's also responsible for avenging his teammates. If someone gets beaned, it's the job of the pitcher to retaliate. Throw a couple high and tight, back the batter off the plate, make him uncomfortable in the batter's box. And then, KAPOW, a high fastball smack in the middle of the back. It's not uncommon for a play like this to end in a bench-clearing slap-fight brawl with the pitcher at the epicenter of the melee.

Pitchers are complex beings with intricate routines and even more elaborate superstitions. When Roidger Roger Clemens played for the Yankees, he touched the Babe Ruth statue before every start. Charlie Kerfeld, a Houston Astros pitcher from the 80's, wore a Jetson's t-shirt under his uniform—coincidently, the character of choice was the Jetson's dog, Astro. And then there was Turk Wendell—Google him, I don't have enough time to list all of his bizarre superstitions, but this dude would brush his teeth between innings. Seriously.

Stop yawning... I think I've pontificated enough on the position of pitcher. Next week, we'll learn about the pitcher's batter mate, the catcher. I know you're all breathless with anticipation. Try to contain yourselves.


  1. You know I love this post, right? Right. Bring on the Super Bowl commercials. Bring on Bruno Mars. Bring on the Olympics. Bring on PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!

    As the mom of a pitcher (granted, he didn't make it to the show) who modeled himself after Greg Maddux (and named our dog Maddux), he has always been a class act. The game could use more of those.

    1. I knew you'd love this one! And I think your son picked a fine pitcher to model himself after. Glad he picked a Hall of Famer and not a juicer! LOL

      The game could use a lot more of a lot of things and class acts are definitely in short supply.