I Got Clocked At 91 MPH… With A Baseball (UPDATE)

First before I get started, let’s give everyone an update:

 

Today is Saturday, April 6. Tomorrow, I will be attending my first formal practice with the Aloha Mets of the MSBL (Site not entirely updated). I thought we’d be getting our uniforms tomorrow, but they’re going to be ordered in a week or two. And it looks like I’ll be getting either number 22 (Jim Palmer’s number! WOOT!) or 13 (Ralph Branca’s! Again, WOOT!). To be honest, they could have given me number 1/3 (Ummm…. Eddie Gaedel’s number. Yeah), and I’d still be thrilled. I did pop something in my neck a few days ago however, and there’s still some discomfort from that, but I think that it should go away by tomorrow.

 

But here’s why I’m here today. 

 

Before tomorrow comes, I just wanted to get an idea of where I was pitching-wise. I grabbed the old lady, her iPhone, and a radar gun (believe it or not, my next door neighbor has one. Hooray for having hoarder friends!), and went to my special spot under the bridge to get a quick practice in.

 

So after I did some quick warmups, I was ready to go. I reared back and threw a rather half-hearted fastball. I checked the reading and saw it was 71 mph.

 

I was surprised at that! I was thinking I was doing pretty awesome if I hit 65. And yet, there it was- six miles over my best estimation… and not even at 3/4 strength. I then screwed around with my offspeed stuff, and then attempted a slightly harder fastball.

 

The Missus looked at me and said “78”. I misheard her, I thought. “68, right?” I said. She shook her head. “No,” she came back. “Seven. Eight. 78.”

 

Well… holy shit! I figured I’d give it a full-on go this time. Let’s see how much harder I can go! The very next pitch came in at 85 mph. I thought that was going to be as good as it was gonna get. But still I kept going. 

 

The next pitch I threw, I turned to look at the woman. She looked at me… then she looked at the gun. Then back to me. “91” she finally managed to say.

 

That can’t be right, I thought. No fucking way that can be right!

 

But I still kept hurling… and I still kept going. 89 mph, 88…. and so on.

 

I threw enough to get good averages on all of my pitches. And here’s the list:

 

4 Seam Fastball: 87 mph

2 Seam Fastball: 82 mph

Palmball: 73 mph

Screwball: 78 mph

Knuckleball: 64 mph

 

As an added bonus: Here’s a video of me pitching. Here, I throw at three angles- Over, sidearm, and underhand. I’ll let you all figure out which is which.

 

Wish me luck at my first team practice tomorrow

 

Less Than 24 Hours To Go…

Until my tryout and draft day tomorrow. 

Something I haven’t said until just now: My nights have been sleepless, to put it kindly. It’s been pretty much a common occurence since this last Tuesday. I’ll wake up every hour on the hour, or worse yet, I’ll sleep maybe two to four hours and then wake up with the oppressive presence of blazing hot fear still lingering in the thoughts. Fear is a strange sensation; It’s both hot and cold at the same time. You sweat, but at the same time the goosebumps tingle along the skin as if caught in a stiff ocean breeze.

In case none of you have figured this out yet, I’m scared. I’m pants-shittingly, heart stoppingly, face-twitchingly scared. 

And I shouldn’t be this way. It isn’t like my entire career is riding on this or anything like that. It’s pretty simple: Either I make it, or I go back to my normal life and job. Big whoop. I really don’t have anything to lose here. Also, it’s not like I haven’t tanked one of these before. So I know what to expect.

Honestly, I think the difference here is that my expectations have been raised now. Before, I came into these things with absolutely no confidence in my ability or talent. Recently though, I’ve seen enough progress with my new pitching style to believe, no matter how false this belief may be, that I have plenty of ability now. And for the most part, my confidence in this ability has risen dramatically. The knuckleball I’ve been working on has been incredible to see coming off the fingers, and I’ve little doubt as to it’s ability to get batters out, especially from my new underhanded pitching style.

Still… I know that practice is a different beast from the actual games. In practice, I can give myself enough time to find my pitch, to find my mechanics, and find the strike zone. In games, hitters won’t give you that time. It’s not like they step back and say, “Hey, I’ll just wait right here, and you let me know when you’re comfortable throwing!” Sure, I WISH they would. But you know the saying about wishes and shit. I think I covered that in a previous entry.

You know, I forgot what a bitch goddess baseball can be. She giveth in one hand, and cockpunches you with the other. Its cute like that. What I’m worried about is whether I’ll get more gifts than cockpunches. I’m quite allergic to the latter.

There’s a part of me that knows on a purely logical level, that this is ridiculous. I know that I’m being a drama queen needlessly. But I can’t help it.

So I know what I’m going to do.

Later today, I’m going to do one final practice. Nothing intensive. Just a nice game of catch with my catcher. And after that, I’m not going to do anything baseball related. I’ll play videogames. I’ll watch films. Maybe I’ll read a good book. I might even watch porn on the internets and cry furiously into my free hand. Who knows?

Tomorrow, I plan on getting to the tryout/draft early. Like 3-4 hours early. Give myself some time to stretch, do some running, and check out the mound I’ll be working from. 

For now though… how are you guys? Hit me back. 🙂

Throwing Like A Girl… I’m Doing It

So, let me just begin by saying that as of yesterday, anyone reading this can follow me on Twitter! Yeah… I finally got sucked in. But as an added aside, it’s SO MUCH EASIER to troll Celebritards now! You can follow me here in case you cared.

And with that, let’s move on to the main attraction, shall we?

So last I left you kids, my left ass was in serious pain. I’m delighted to tell you all that this is no longer the case. I no longer hobble like an old man whenever I go up and down the stairs leading to my studio. Of course, I hobble like a middle-aged man, but that’s to be expected when on the bad side of one’s thirties.

So what I wound up doing was waiting a day or two for the pain to subside. I kept in shape with stretches and more light weights (The latter of which is very hard to do when you’re too poor to buy proper dumbbells- I substituted a heavy frying pan). And then, when I felt decent enough, I went out to do some practice throwing. 

I found the PERFECT spot for it too. It’s tucked away under the lovely Hawthorne bridge. And the best part about it is that for some reason, perhaps its proximity to a city employee parking lot, it has yet to be seriously tainted with hobo piss, malt liquor bottles, used syringes and crack pipes, and so on.

Also, since the target I was throwing at was a bridge pylon, all I needed to get a good practice session was a glove and a rubber baseball and not only could I get my throws in, I could also do some fielding work at the same time. Yay me!

So now, you’re no doubt wondering about the title of this entry. 

If you recall, in my last post I mentioned that because of my past injury (shattered ball joint), I couldn’t really throw the more traditional overhand style of pitching found in baseball without popping my arm out of the socket. It does this very easily and while it really doesn’t hurt, being that I’ve had over twenty years to get used to it, it does make things rather inconvenient when I need to actually put some muscle into a pitch.

And with that established, the question was raised: What was I supposed to do about that? Kick the ball over? Use The Force? Shoot the ball out of my ass? Well… that’s one way to throw with gas, I guess. But that won’t play here. Besides, NOBODY is gonna wanna catch that. Maybe I should just quit now and settle for years of playing the MLB: The Show series whilst pining over what could have been?

I was REALLY leaning toward that last option. I came ever so close to doing just that very thing. But you know something? Over my four years of sobriety, I’ve had to take a good long look at my life. And amidst all the soul searching, it occurred to me: Everything in life I’ve ever wanted, I could have had. It was never that I lacked for talent; Quite the opposite in fact. No, the only reason I never succeeded at anything worth noting is because I never followed through. I always got to a certain point in an endeavour and said “Fuck it. I’m done”. Nothing was ever seen through to the end.

Not this time. Not again. This is what I tell myself, anyway.

So once more: What was I supposed to do in this case? 

The answer was honestly rather simple, and probably didn’t need all the above exposition to get to. But here it is: I had to completely rebuild my pitching style. And I had to do that from the ground up. And I knew exactly how I was going to do it: I was going to reinvent myself as an underhanded pitcher.

Now those of you who know what I speak of are probably thinking, “Why is that such a big deal? There are plenty of underhand pitchers in baseball”. But here’s the thing: Most of them, if not all, are not in fact throwing underhand. In fact, if you take a look at guys like Chad Bradford, Craig Breslow, Darren O’Day and so on, you see that they actually throw sidearm, but the angle in which their torso tilts to make their pitches gives the appearance of being underhand. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. But I’m not limber enough to throw like that, and I ain’t even going to try.

No, when I say underhand, I mean like in softball. In other words… throwing like a girl. Hey, if Disco Hayes can do it, why the hell not? Besides, that style of pitching has some very distinct advantages.

First thing softball style pitching has going for it is that because underhand is the body’s natural throwing style, it causes a LOT less wear and tear on the rotator cuff. Less wear equals more endurance, which equals more quality innings per start.

And second, because from a lower arm slot you have freedom of movement in your wrist and elbow, you can put a LOT more spin on your pitches, which translates to more movement on your throws home.

And finally in my case, I learned that throwing underhand has helped me regain the control I once had, so I no longer have to wind up, throw the pitch, and pray it doesn’t wind up beaning the third baseman.

About the only thing I really notice a drop in is velocity, but as long as you have the control and movement, velocity isn’t a terribly big issue. Besides, it’s been decades since I touched 90mph on a radar gun anyway.

So how did I learn to do this, you ask? Simple. I learned by watching YouTube, of course! Namely I’ve been studying Amanda Scarborough’s pitching tutorials she did for Team Express. If you’re going to learn, I figure it’s worth it to learn from one of the best. And Ms. Scarborough’s record sorta speaks for itself.

Armed with this new knowledge, I went to my spot to work on what I’d learned. Nothing too fancy; just the standard fastball types (four seam and two seam, respectively) and the palmball (the only change-up I could ever make work for me). But you know what? It was fucking AMAZING! Everything I threw was right on target. My throws had movement I have never seen before in like, the history of everything, especially the two-seamer- That pitch faded in just like my old screwball in high school. And the best part? This success was not in my head. At one point, I began to notice a small crowd of people watching me work. They musta thought I was crazy or something. And they wouldn’t be too far off from the truth. But judging for the occasional clap or approving nod, they liked my brand of crazy.

And then, because why the hell not, I decided to try to throw a knuckleball from the underhand delivery. That too was right on target, and fluttering like a decent knuckler is supposed to. I actually started giggling, it was so funny to see.

Of course, it went to shit shortly after that. 

I noticed that after about 45 minutes, every pitch I threw began just rolling on the ground, as though I were bowling, or playing Bocce. I should have seen that my arm was tired from nearly an hour straight of throwing and fielding, but hubris set in. Like Icarus, I was going to fly as high as the sun. I kept going, figuring that I’d be able to right this little hiccup. It didn’t happen. If anything, it got worse.

So finally after about the sixth or seventh pitch being rolled along the ground frustration set in, and with a stream of variants on the words “Shit”, “Fuck”, and “Mother”, I charged the ball and gave it a MIGHTY kick.

Remember where I told you I was practicing? Can you guess what happened? 

If you somehow haven’t figured it out yet: My kick sent the ball sailing right over the pylon- And I’m still wondering how it did that with only a few inches of clearance- And bounced right into the cold poo-filled waters of the Willamette River. Then, with a sigh and a bemused shake of my head (Hey, you gotta be amused, yeah?), I went back home.

It’s the 18th of February now as I write this. The tryout/draft is in six days. I still have some work to do, but so far, everything has been very positive. My next challenge will be throwing off the mound. And who knows? If I can score a cheap (or loaner) camera, I might even have some video and/or pics to put up.

Until then, go home! We’re done here. What more do you want?

 

Baseball And Butthurt (In That Order)

So… My ass hurts. Seriously.

Been awhile since I last posted on here. How y’all been? Does anyone read this? 

Well regardless of whether anyone is reading this or not, I have a story to share.

This story starts waaaaaaaaaay back in 1988. I was fourteen then. Miami Vice ruled the television. Spandex shorts were the cool thing to wear… though very few could make them actually LOOK cool (Spandex truly is a privilege as opposed to a right). Dukakis was riding a tank while George W.’s Dad was riding right to the Presidency of the United States. And believe it or not, Whitney Houston was relatively sane, crack-free, and slightly less dead.

But for me in those days of yore, only four things mattered: Skateboarding, Punk Rock, Comic Books, and Baseball. Well okay, maybe FIVE things mattered since at that age, I’d become very much aware of females, sex, and my budding desire to combine the two. But I digress.

The thing we are going to be talking about today is baseball. But you figured that out from the title I imagine. 

At fourteen, I was a rather awkward youth. I was terrible at pretty much every sport my school had to offer except for maybe soccer. But while I liked soccer, I never LOVED it. I couldn’t catch, run, throw or do anything in football. In basketball, I couldn’t even so much as drop the simplest of layups. And then, there was wrestling. Oh God… we do NOT talk about wrestling unless it involves masked Hispanics. 

But then I discovered baseball. And from the very first moment I took the bat in my hand and banged out my first screaming line drive, it was love. But that love was not complete. I only had love for the batting part.

My teams and coaches tried to put me everywhere in the field they could think, in an effort to get my bat in their lineup (turns out I was good at the hitting part). But every position I tried was a disaster. I originally tried playing shortstop in emulation of Cal Ripken Jr. Sadly, I couldn’t emulate his skill on defense. Same with third base. Same with second. Hell, I even found a way to fuck up playing first base! I played the infield like the bastard offspring of Marv Throneberry and Dick Stuart. And don’t get me started on the outfield; even to this day, I can’t think of a more boring sports experience than patrolling centerfield for hours at a stretch.

Taking the mound as a pitcher was something I’d never even given any thought until that year when my coach put me on the mound as a last resort. My debut as a pitcher wasn’t exactly amazing: I lost the game, walking or hitting nearly as many batters as I got out. But you know what? It made sense to me. Everything just kind of… clicked into place. 

For me, it was perfect. I was in control of the entire game. From the first pitch until I got taken out, It felt like everything that happened in the game revolved on what I did, and how I was throwing that day. It also helped that I had one hell of a strong arm at the time.

Of course, those first couple of seasons, control was a HUGE issue for me. But with practice and time, I began to figure that out as well. As a result, I’d developed a real sense of confidence. And I was happy to have finally found a sport that I didn’t embarrass myself completely in.

So naturally, all that fell to shit in 1991. That was the year I’d shattered the ball joint of my throwing shoulder. That’s another story for another time. But for the purposes of the story, it effectively ended any hopes I may have harbored for progressing in baseball past the high school level. Yeah, I did attempt a comeback of sorts in college. But when your arm dislocates every time you try to throw over the top, your chances are pretty slim to put it mildly.

I proved my minuscule chances last year when I attended a tryout in Milwaukie. Not only did I have absolutely no strength in my arm, but I couldn’t even find the strike zone with a guide dog. When the tryout ended, I was basically told “Thanks for playing. But seriously- Fuck off”. Had I but a single measure of pride, it would have been crushed.

But since I don’t have anything resembling pride, and I don’t know the meaning of the word “quit” (Other words I don’t know the meaning of: “No”, “Stop”, and “Felony Parole Violation”)… I resolved to work on a new style of pitching and try again next season.

Which brings us to my ass. And why it hurts.

So on the 24th of this month, I will be attending a tryout and draft with the Northwest Independent Baseball League. In preparation of this, I’ve begun working out. Nothing too strenuous though. Just some stretching, leg strengthening exercises, and very light weight exercise. But with over a week to go until the big day, I knew that I needed to begin throwing. So that’s what I did yesterday. 

Now, a common misconception about pitching is that all your power comes from the arm and shoulder. And while to a certain extent this is true, the fact is that the arm and shoulder is only a small part of where that power and velocity comes from. Throwing velocity in fact comes from the thigh and glutes in a pitcher’s drive leg (the leg you lead off with, thus driving the body forward with the pitch). Since I am right handed, my drive leg is my left. 

At this point it should be apparent: After throwing for 30-45 minutes straight, that drive leg really HURTS. Funny thing about muscle aches is that I never seem to feel them during such physical activity. I had no problem at all throwing. In fact, everything felt really good!

But when it came time to call it a day and begin walking home, that’s when I felt it: A massive throbbing pain from my left thigh all the way up to my left buttcheek. I tell you, I looked like an old man hobbling up the four flights of stairs to my apartment.

Worst part? I can’t wait to do it all over again.

NEXT ENTRY: Throwing Like A Girl