My Take On JP Arencibia’s Special Gift.

Earlier this evening, I was reading a story from MLB.com about JP Arencibia’s surprise gift of tickets to autistic fan Matt Harvey. Harvey, a 31 year old Blue Jays fan from St. Catherines, Ontario, is a constant source of support for his team over Twitter, and is unceasing in his support for the Jays. 

So, when Arencibia had learned that Harvey has suffered from bullying most of his life, the Blue Jays catcher took it upon himself to surprise Harvey with tickets for Toronto’s season opener versus the Cleveland Indians. “got 2 tickets for u!” Arencibia tweeted to Harvey. “The bully’s can watch it from home, you won’t have to!”

Reading that, and reading about what Matt Harvey has had to go through in his life… Being picked on for being “weird” or “different” or a “freak”… Going through childhood KNOWING something made him different from his peers, but not understanding what it was, or even why until he was in his twenties. Well, something about that just resonated within the coal black void that is my heart. Okay, a couple of somethings.

First, in this day and age where we look at athletes and admire from a distance; Where we can appreciate the skills and contributions they make to our beloved teams, but do so with the full understanding that we’re little to them but amorphous blobs of revenue, we become jaded. We don’t expect an athlete like Arencibia to just do something so kind out of the blue like this. In an age where total douchecanoes like Alex Rodriguez can pocket the revenue generated through his charity, such generosity as seen by Arencibia almost doesn’t compute. 

For me, reading of such a thing is enough to think to myself that it’s really damn cool to learn that not all pro athletes are as Rodriguez. It’s also enough for me to say that no matter what a guy like Arencibia does for the rest of his career, he will always be one of my favorites.

And for a guy like Matt Harvey, my own heart goes out to him. I am envious of the support he receives from his family, his girlfriend, and even guys like JP. I feel for him as well, as I know what he went through on a daily basis (and still possibly does).

You see, I was different too growing up.

Ever since I could remember, there were… things… that set me apart. When I was first learning to speak for example, I did so with a pronounced stutter. Also, I’d suffer through bouts of palilalia (when you involuntarily repeat yourself. For example, I’d ask somebody, “What’s your name? What’s your name?”). And there were also the tics: Suddenly, with no real explanation, my arms would flap about at full strength. If not those, then it’d be my legs. I had no way of knowing what caused it. And despite all my efforts, I couldn’t make these things stop.

The first bully I remember to point all these idiosyncrasies out to me was my own Grandmother. She had little to no qualms about hitting me whenever my arms would start twitching about, or when my tongue would suddenly fall to stuttering. The fact that I was only four or five years old during all this was irrelevant in her eyes. If I stuttered, or twitched, or repeated myself spontaneously, I knew I could expect a clubbing from bits of firewood.

The worst of it though was when she’d tell me and everyone else who cared to hear, that I was mentally retarded. Or that all of this was my fault. You know, because I totally chose to do these things since they were so super fucking neato.

When it came time for me to go to school, I was hoping it would be a reprieve from the tender mercies of my grandmother. I was wrong. Instead of dealing with one actual Grandma, I was sent to interact on my own with a seeming army of smaller versions. Coming home with a bloody nose or torn clothes was a pretty regular thing. And I knew that my family wouldn’t get it. To them, I brought all of this on myself by not being able to control my actions. Somehow, this was my fault.

I think that for me, this all came to a head after the divorce of my parents. After Dad left, he could hardly support himself let alone a “retarded” son. And my mom’s boyfriend had decided that if I were around, they couldn’t be together. So I was sent to a residential school to live when I was six.

I’ll tell you: If you thought that it was bad before? Just think of how much worse it became when I was placed in a facility with REAL problem cases. I’d been brutally beaten at this school. I’d been stabbed. Or put in restraints. You name it: This “school” was really a prison with teddy bears… and cartoons. And I did four years in it.

It was when I was ten that a particularly observant social worker had an idea of what was really wrong with me: I was born with Tourette Syndrome. I wasn’t retarded. I wasn’t autistic. I wasn’t just “doing it for attention”. I was born with this, but beyond that I was just like everyone else.

Except by that point, I wasn’t. It took me years to acclimated to being “out”. It wasn’t until my late teens that I realized that responding to slights by beating people nearly half to death was not the normal method of conflict resolution. I had been bullied, and as such, I became a bully in response. 

One thing I’ve learned from all of this is that the world is a cruel hard place to live. And it’s crueler still for people like Matt Harvey and to a lesser extent, myself. Without the love and support of one’s family and friends, it becomes all too easy to become the cruelty you experience. I’m glad this is the case for Matt. I’m glad that he has these things, because growing up, I did not.

And to JP Arencibia: In a tweet you wrote in response to supporters (like myself), you said that “its not about me”. I beg to differ.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I’ll tell you: People like Matt Harvey… people like myself; We NEED people like you. We need people to tell us that were okay. That despite our flaws and despite our troubles, we’re not terrible for them, and we’re not failures because our disorders set us apart from the mainstream. We need people like you, because unlike so many of the people in my life, you seem to give a shit.

Furthermore, I need to know when you’ll be playing Seattle. I’m just a couple hundred miles south of Safeco. I might be able to swing the trip.

Also, if you and RA Dickey (one of my other favorites) could maybe go a little easy on my beloved Orioles… Please? What do you say?

 

 

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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

Baseball Hall Of Fame: The Steroid Class Is In

[NOTE: This is my first article written for Yahoo, which is currently under review by editors.]

Earlier, Yahoo Sports asked over Twitter whether Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were worthy of a place in Major League Baseball’s Hall of Fame. Now I refuse to use Twitter or anything else that sounds like something I might have done to your mother last night, and thus, was not able to partake in this discussion.

But in my mind, the question still stands: Are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens Hall Of Famers? Why, yes. Yes they are.

Would I vote for them? Yes. I would.

Strangely enough though, the big question I keep asking myself as I read this article is this: Why is there even a debate in the first place?

When it comes up, the major discussion point that seems to come up again and again is that folks like Bonds and Clemens cheated somehow. That by using PEDs, they broke a written law of the game.
But here’s the thing: They didn’t. There was no policy in place for PED abuse in MLB until 2005. Sure, there was the matter of federal laws banning the recreational use of PEDs. But with no policy in MLB (and thus, no rule), the players were free to use whatever they wanted.

So if you want to be nitpicky, you could say that these players never broke the letter of the law regarding this in MLB.

“But that isn’t important”, you say. “By knowingly taking PEDs, these players broke the spirit of the rules!”
But did they really?

Well to be fair, I suppose the better question is: By taking performance enhancing drugs, did these players violate the “sanctity of the game” any more than Gaylord Perry or Whitey Ford did whenever they’d doctor the ball? And if you believe that they did, then by this logic, shouldn’t we retroactively go through the Hall Of Fame and remove all trace of these great cheaters of yore? Do you REALLY want to have to do that?

Look, let’s be honest here: Yeah, that time was bad for everyone. Baseball has taken a serious hit to its credibility because of this. And for years to come, The Steroid Era of Baseball will hang over a generation of fans and players like a bad odor. Which brings me to my final point:
It’s OUR fault it happened in the first place.

From the folks within the Commissioner’s Office who looked at PEDs not as a problem, but a profit. To Donald Fehr and the MLBPA who saw the growing use of enhancers as leverage in future CBA meetings. To the players who took them in an effort to produce bigger everything from muscles to contracts. To the media who continued looking the other way while vilifying those who’d publicly say anything (Remember Steve Wilstein?). And finally to the fans, to us, who drank the kool aid, cheered on command with each new record set, and threw MLB our wallets while willfully ignoring the signs of something amiss… we are to blame.

We created the Steroid Era. This is our time… Our era. And this is our responsibility. If we ignore it, don’t we run the risk of running into the same problem in the future?

Personally, I’d rather see men like Bonds and Clemens get the due they deserve: I’d rather see them in the Hall Of Fame, if not because they flat out put up the numbers to warrant entry, then because their very place there will continue to invite open and honest discussion of that time.

And there should always be a discussion.

An Introduction (As If You Cared)

INTRO:

… I really hate writing introductions. Seriously. I mean, what am I supposed to write here? My name? My hobbies? My turn-ons and pet peeves? I just don’t know.

 

But I’ll go ahead and try it: My name is Tracy Hudson. At the time I’m writing this, I’m 38 years old, and live in Portland, Oregon. I’m currently married, with no kids or pets yet. Some of my current favorite things include baseball, video games, skateboarding, martial arts, art, writing, films, reading, comic books, cartoons, being generally nasty, and a bunch of other things you’ll learn about, should you decide to keep reading.

 

It also has to be said: I like cookies. A lot.

 

As far as work goes, I am currently without a real job; However, I do write for Yahoo now (Inaugural article being reviewed as we speak!). So I guess there’s that.

 

WHAT IS THIS BLOG, ANYWAY?:

 

This blog will contain my columns for Yahoo, as well as any other random musings, silly pictures/videos, fiction,  or anything else that tickles my fancy. As a result, this blog may feel a bit unfocused. But then again, I’m unfocused. So you might just have to deal with that. Hope you don’t mind!

 

SOOO… NOW WHAT?:

 

Now what?

 

Um… Uh… Errrrrm… That’s a fantastic question!

 

I suppose I should start by putting out my first piece. Hell, it’s already written and everything!

 

CONCLUSION:

 

I hope that, as you continue to read my missives, you enjoy them just as much as I occasionally enjoy writing them. Of course, I welcome all comments and criticisms from those of you out there who feel so inclined.

 

Stay tuned!