Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Throwing A Baseball

The Sporting Life

“Any baseball is beautiful. No other small package comes as close to the ideal in design and utility. It is a perfect object for a man’s hand. Pick it up and it instantly suggests its purpose: it is meant to be thrown a considerable distance—thrown hard and with precision.”
Roger Angell

Nothing in our daily life offers more of the comfort of continuity, the generational connection of belonging to a vast and complicated American family, the powerful sense of home, the freedom from time's constraints, and the great gift of accumulated memory than does our National Pastime.”
Ken Burns

“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball.”
Jacques Barzun

Baseball Gloves & Ball: It does not take much to play pitch and catch; it requires the minimum of equipment—just a glove and a ball and a open field. If you add a bat, then you can hit some fly balls. 
Photo Credit & Source: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2016

If you have ever thrown a baseball, you will get why I find it enjoyable. Last week, my youngest son (age 8) and I went to the local park and we brought our baseball mitts (mine more worked in than his) and a baseball, both made by Rawlings Sporting Goods, a company whose association with baseball gloves dates to the 1920s. [I suggest that you read the linked article in Smithsonian.] That’s a long tradition, and speaking of which, I had since last year wanted to introduce my son to the enjoyments of toss and catch, the feeling of throwing a baseball and the feeling of accomplishment of catching it.

I came to playing sports relatively late, at around 12 or 13, but I do remember tossing a ball with my father when I was around my youngest son’s age; this is a good memory. When I did take up sports, including baseball, I did so with the same kind of enthusiasm and dedication to becoming better as I did with schooling and academics. There is much science to sports, including in baseball, where the physics or mechanics of spin play a large part in how the ball moves in space. You don’t have to know any physics to throw a baseball; it won’t help you if you do.

Great players throw naturally without thought of the physics or biomechanics behind their pitches, which does not take away the science (and art) of pitching. But it does tell you what is at the heart of all sports, including baseball. Practice. Practice. Practice. Tens of thousands of pitches can make you better. This is the case with all sports. It takes serious dedication to become better; it takes so much more to become a pro who can regularly throw pitches at more than 90 mph. Although the human limit seems to be 105 mph, which gives a batter less than 0.5 seconds to respond or react. And the best of them can and do.

As is the case with many sports, beginnings are hard, since skills do not yet exist that comes with repetition. Much repetition. True, my youngest son did not catch many balls, but he caught a few, and was enthusiastic and persevered. His throwing is better, but it will take thousands of more thrown balls to increase his accuracy, if not the velocity of his pitches. He will improve in this area, because he has said he wants to. This counts, too.

I can also see that he will catch more balls, that he will get the feel of it. It will take practice, and with practice will come the skill and then the confidence. And Agnell says what is true for many. When you pick up a baseball, which fits neatly in your hand, you have an object that is designed to throw both far and fast. If you know what you are doing, you can throw it ever so many ways, including a fastball, a slider, a curve and a change-up.

No doubt, there is pleasure and satisfaction in learning to do something well. In this way, sports has much to teach my son, even at this young age, including the value of discipline and perseverance. No one here is suggesting that sports is everything, but sports can add value to a person’s life and provide much enjoyment; this includes the simple game of pitch and catch. Baseball is not going to change the world, but it will certainly not make it any worse than it already is. No, quite the contrary.

Now, if someone can tell me why is it that a hot dog tastes better at the ballpark?