Every good or great athlete who steps onto a baseball field might very well feel an air of superiority over lesser skilled athletes while demonstrating his running, throwing, and fielding skills, as well his powerful swing when taking batting practice, especially on the amateur level. When a “Big-fish” comes out of the “small-pond” into the large arena of professional baseball, he might still swagger a bit while impressing the standers-by with his ostensible prowess. But in that environment it doesn’t take long before even the “big-fish” are “swallowed-up” by the “leviathans” of “Mounds-man-ship” – The Professional Pitcher.
Two specific attitudes characterize the athletes who stand out amongst their peers and garner for themselves respect and admiration from all who behold their particular dispositions. One is that of extreme arrogance that gives evidence of overwhelming confidence that he has an inherent right to perform at the highest level, and he is able to prove his worth, at least for a while. The other is that of a humble spirit, whose quiet confidence simply lets his actions speak for him, while appreciating and nurturing every opportunity to perform what he innately sees as his duty to do, and does it with exactness, and step by step progresses along constructive lines. (Joe Morgan – 5 feet 6 inches tall – 145 lbs)
The first is a “physical – phenom” who is acknowledged for his artistic, natural propensity as an athlete to make solid contact of bat to ball without his advocating any strict adherence to disciplined principle. Most notable examples are those “Blue-Chip” prospects who are Big, Strong, and Fast (e.g. – Josh Hamilton, Yasiel Puig, Bryce Harper, and “yours truly”), who garner for themselves “big bonus bucks” when they sign their initial contracts, and carry the fresh hopes of those organizations that intend to weave this new and endearing material into a more durable fabric for team-building.
The second is a “smart-hitter” and a cunning adversary for any “pitcher,” with instincts and astute deductive processes that can successfully promote an effective hitting prowess. This type of batter combines his natural physical talents with at least a cursory understanding that certain indefinable mental qualities are essential to offset the sometimes-crippling dependency on physicality alone. He tries to incorporate a mental component into his prominent physical dimension because his instincts reveal some underlying mechanism to higher achievement. The individual ballplayers with whom I personally have had contact who epitomize this brand of hitter are Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub, Jim Wynn, Tom Paciorek, to name a few. But without a thorough investigation into the depths of mechanical understanding, the closest these trial and error tactics will get them to their highest proficiency is the range encircling the .300 mark. Not bad, but far from superlative achievement!
The mentality of most professional batters, because of the overpowering “arms” of most professional pitchers, is one with two limited approaches to maintaining a relatively successful attack on the respectable .300 average. “See every pitched ball and swing at strikes,” and “look for a particular pitch, and make sure you hit it” are two simplistic notions that rely primarily on one’s quick physical responses to the given stimuli. And the success of either is determined by the quickness of the batter’s reflexes and the inability of the pitcher to put the ball where he wants it. The highest degree of consistent productivity is never attainable with either of these approaches because their sporadic and sometimes remarkable success is achieved while the batter’s senses seem to be acutely within “the zone” of feeling good, a state of being that is ephemeral at best. On any given day any such hitter could look like a potential “hall of famer.” But, by the end of a regular season, his numbers add up to a compelling mediocrity (e.g. – Josh Hamilton, Bryce Harper, and countless others).
Since “hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult thing to do in all of Sports,” as proclaimed by Mister Ted Williams, a most credible artisan of professional bats-man-ship, (and a fact fully attested to by countless other athletes, whose superiority in their own realms of athletic endeavor validate this otherwise presumptuous claim), it stands to reason that batting proficiency is afforded to no less than a dedicated student of the “art”. But to infer that some individuals perform the skill so naturally that it automatically preempts others from developing the talent to an equivalent level is to misconstrue and misappropriate the leveling effect that the game of baseball has for aspiring participants with varying degrees of athletic competence.
Hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do in all of sports! But the irony is that you don’t have to be the best athlete to become an outstanding hitter! Neither speed afoot, a powerful throwing arm, nor a well-sculpted physique is a required characteristic of a proficient bats-man! The so-called natural-athlete, with prodigious power, lightening feet, and a cannon arm, has all the tools that “scouts” look for in the complete ball-player. But not all super-talented “bonus-babies” fulfill the potential of their natural prospectus, and become “Big-League Hitters.”
The “Art” of hitting a baseball is more than a physical exercise, by a well-conditioned athlete, to demonstrate quick reflexes in a random response to the various stimuli presented by a pitcher and a speeding round projectile. Rather, it is a calculated artistic display of functional expediency, by a dedicated aspirant to highest achievement, which incorporates the physical, mental, and spiritual components of human endeavor into a masterful exhibition of batting excellence.
Coming Soon: A Tribute to a Legendary Master of the Art of Bats-man-ship?