beisbol been berry berry good to me

15 January, 2006

…or let’s hope, anyway.

There’s a women’s baseball league in Montgomery County, which borders DC. I’d been to the batting cages once with its coach S. and a few other players, all more experienced, and learned that not only do I seemingly lose all ability to throw a ball in a straight line when it’s 3 inches smaller in circumference, but everything I ever knew about hitting mechanics is wrong. It was an ego hit to say the least, although I did get called “athletic” (pause for laughter of years of gym teachers) and a quick learner.

Well apparently it’s not a joke, cause I went back today, having practiced not at all since before Christmas. This time instead of ad-hoc instruction I got a full session with a more experienced baseball dude and learned the swing and the throwing motion from scratch. We started at the tee, threw some, and finished up in the cages, where I got “remember to (do thing I learned an hour ago)” at first, but by the end was pretty much only getting “watch the ball as it hits the bat” (which coaches have been telling me for nigh on 20 years). I consider this progress and was feeling very good about how it was all coming together.

I wish I could feel as good about throwing. I’ve been throwing softballs for, again, 20 years, and thought I knew what I was doing. How could baseball be that different? But it is. Apparently one does not cock and then snap one’s wrist, as I was sooo carefully taught year after year in softball practices. That change changes the arm’s trajectory and results in me throwing shit into the WALL instead of in a straight line. Then I get gunshy and get told to throw harder. argh! Of course, one problem may be the space we’re using which is about 8 feet wide and 60 feet long. I know I’ll be more accurate outside. At the end, I was so pissed off at how hard this previously instinctual thing had become, I picked up the ball and whipped it against the back wall as hard as possible a few times without thinking about mechanics at all, just to have the feeling of a happy throw in my arm. Worked, but I wish I could figure this out.

HOWEVER. The best part was when S. was practicing her pitching. I got to stand in the batter’s box and just….look. The pro was catching her and we talked the whole time. He had me judge each pitch when it was 10 feet in front of the plate, show him where the ball had crossed the plate, we worked a few counts….basically it was the session I’d been waiting for for, yes, 20 years. I was never known for my eye (pause for laughter of old coaches) and would panic when batting and pray for walks. Back then I couldn’t judge stuff below my waist to save my life, which is half the softball strike zone and 2/3 the baseball zone. I knew my eye just needed training and feedback, and today it got as much as possible. (I have a new problem now–I see the ball a foot higher than it really is, likely because baseballs are dropping as they come in and softballs are rising. Totally screws me on the high stuff, which I already could never lay off….) I couldn’t IMAGINE a more useful exercise for myself. And it was lots of fun to put my three years of intently watching and studying baseball to direct use in working counts!

I also learned that you can “oil” your glove with shaving cream. That should be fun!


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