Part 4 – “Unified Field”… Fielding: Infield!

The three major components in effecting the proper technique for fielding a baseball on the infield are these: balance, vision, and power. As play is initiated, fielding readiness implies being in a low balanced position, eyes focused on the point where the ball would contact the bat, and the body responding to that instant with preliminary movement to brace himself in anticipation of the ball being hit to “him.” If it becomes evident that the play is “his,” the preliminary action sets the stage for a quick sequence of smooth, rhythmical, ballet-like movements that follow, in preparation for engaging the on-coming ball, as well as completing the play to its entirety.
An infielder establishes stability and balance to perform his task when his center of gravity is low. His ability to see the ball most clearly is determined by the extent to which his eyes are on a parallel level to the ball, and the degree to which the body and head maintain a stable vehicle for proper focus. Power is generated most effectively with the body in a stable, balanced position, from which all movements can be produced most speedily, and with a minimum strain to accompanying body parts.

If the outfield can be a lonely place to play, the infield is just the opposite in that there is a more heightened sense of camaraderie as well as imminent expectation. Players are in close proximity to each other. They talk to one another. They communicate more easily. They don’t seem to have a great need to be highly creative; they usually have more action than they want or can handle. Rather than having to be “fast” runners, their effectiveness is determined by how “quick” they are in a confined area. They don’t cover vast territory, but must be extremely adept at moving laterally with quick bursts to handle “bullet-like” projectiles with the courage, confidence, and agility of a “mongoose.”

“Ballerina-like” footwork and the hand and finger dexterity of a heart surgeon typify the common physical characteristics of a professional infielder. There is one quality that no infielder can be without—Courage! All infielders have it. It’s never a case of one having more than another. It is only a question of whether or not he’ll “muster it up” consistently, on every ball hit, as evidenced in the occasional “Ole.”
The best infielders use every conceivable means to gain an advantage over the ferocious ground-ball that would like to “eat them up.” Fielding ground balls properly involves a physical procedure which runs contrary to every human instinct to self-preservation—to lean forward as low as possible to the turf while a hard hit grounder is approaching your position. It’s like going nose to nose with a rattlesnake. Now, the procedure is sound because it allows the fielder a sure tracking view from ground level.

A tennis player returning a serve, and a batter attacking a pitched ball, understand the value of seeing the in-coming object on a parallel level. But an infielder has the added dimension of coping with the traumatic possibility that the ball could easily pop up and “bite off his nose,” loosen some teeth, or cause irreparable damage to his prospects for video endorsements.
Third and First basemen hold down positions referred to as the “hot corners.” Playing “even” with their respective bases, these two infielders are closer to the batter than any one besides the pitcher and catcher. But only the pitcher is subject to more hazardous ballistic encounters with a baseball than the third and first basemen. Since there are more right-handed batters in all of Baseball, then presumably a third baseman would be in possession of the hotter of the “hot” corners. But in general, the sense of “imminent responsibility” is the same, especially when the first baseman “holds” the runner.
While the choreography involved in fielding ground-balls amongst infielders is generally the same, there are subtle differences in “prep-time” (stance, as pitch is being delivered) between the “hot-corners” and “middle-infielders.” Time and speed are always of the essence. For obvious reasons, to be able to respond quickly at the “corners,” those fielders assume a “tunnel-vision” mentality, positioning their bodies with a low center of gravity with eyes focused at the point where the bat is likely to strike the ball to force it in their directions. The low positioning of the body is for heightened anticipation that the ball will be hit on the ground where the eyes are able to make more acute visual contact. Anything other than a solidly hit “grounder” is a welcomed sight to any infielder. The adjustment to “lined-drives” and “pop-ups” is minimal, hence nothingmuch to fear. However, much applause is heralded by all onlookers after a leaping or lunging third or first “sacker” spears a wicked “lined-shot.”
The shortstop and second baseman can assume a more relaxed posture as the pitch is being delivered because they are farther away from the batter and have a panoramic view of the entire infield, which facilitates a surer sense of how the ball will come off the bat. If the ball is hit to either player, he quickly assumes the characteristic fielding position, body lowered and “face to the ball,” then glides through the ball while preparing to engage the “throwing mechanics.”
The rhythm which all infielders develop when learning to “attack” the infamous batted-ball is a defensive-mechanism established to preoccupy thought from petrifying with fear the mind of the inanimate body. It’s like reverse psychology! The more fearful you are, the more you must look to be fearless. Animated body parts unconsciously convey this message. No one is totally fearless, but a sense of confidence does much to deny fear its manifestation—hesitation, misjudgment, over-anxiousness, mental and physical error.
Confidence is enhanced as one becomes assured of his ability to counteract the undermining element that elicits fear. Quick reflexes of head, neck, and hands are the usual defenders against the perpetrator of fear on the infield—that little bolt of “white lightning.”
Being hit in any part of the body by a thrown or batted baseball is not an experience that most individuals anticipate with relish. In fact, there are many instances where prospective players of the “game,” from “little-league” to “college-ball,” decided to “hang-em-up” after being hit too many times (or even once). An outstanding 250 pound line-backer on a prominent college football team, who never hesitated taking on 300 pound line-men or powerful running-backs (or even a “Mack-Truck”) stopped playing baseball in high-school because he couldn’t get over the thought of being hit by that little white, 5 ounce, leather-bound projectile.No sane person would intentionally subject himself to the continuous prospect of physical abuse unless there was a sense of tangible hope for lessening the chances of undesirable engagement. The only legitimate solution to “the dilemma” is a “skill-development” progression that affords an “inoculatory-effect” by decreasing physical intensity and promoting a build-up of resistance to the initial, overwhelming, mental effect that the image of the “Hard-Ball” projects.
Little-leagues” have increased enrollment recently by prudently affecting the density of the ball used at their lowest levels of play, to protect their youngest prospects from experiencing the debilitating trauma of hard-ball contusions that could curtail their desires to continue to learn the game. This “inoculation period” enables the players to develop the initial skills with less trepidation, and hopefully become proficient enough to counteract the effects of higher intensity in the future. Since “Fear” is what ultimately impedes progress of every sort, any tool that would lessen its effects could only be thought of as positive and promoting a better, more healthful learning environment for any of life’s endeavors (fielding ground-balls and batting included).
Ultimately, if you’re going to play Baseball you have to either overcome or cope with the fear of “ball-contact.” The “Seasoned—Veteran” has learned to “shrug it off” as merely part of the game that his sharply defined reflexes can help him cope with most of the time. The “Metaphysically-astute Veteran” seems to be able to overcome the physical trauma by denying that it has any affect on him by showing his disdain with stoic indifference.
At this point of considering the means to establishing optimal fielding prowess it may become evident that playing the game of Baseball at the highest level may not be for everyone. But the opportunity to get to that point and realize what it really takes to become a “big-leaguer” is a valuable lesson for which to hold enormous pride and appreciation for having gone through one of life’s human gauntlets that will no doubt serve one well in any future challenging encounters.

Coming Soon: A New Series entitled – Assisting those who would and should be Great, to BE GREAT! First three candidates will be Giancarlo Stanton, Yu Darvish, and Aaron Judge.

Part 3 – “Unified Field”… Fielding: Outfield Play

by John Paciorek

Human bodies are not stick figures, animated without rhythm and reason. They are characters whose minds think and move them in more than one dimension to incorporate and facilitate function. Things contrived are never really simple; but knowledge of the intricate, and the understanding of elements that sustain a natural order, make it possible to simplify/clarify that which appears complex/difficult.

The Principle of Fielding is intended to awaken in every advocate of the game an easy and simple means to facilitate the proper mechanics necessary to improve his/her play. Simplicity is the integration and coordination of life’s infinite array of variables within the realm of understanding. By gaining an understanding of the minute details of the specific movements involved in the specialized aspects of “fielding,” an amateur athlete can gain a greater appreciation for what it takes to possibly emulate the performances of an outstanding player.

The only way to describe the best of ball-players at his position is that “he makes it look simple.” Although it is not really simple, abiding by a strict discipline of simple mechanics, the best players have perfected the techniques for their particular positions through arduous, repetitive labor, from which the human physical endeavor eventually appears effortless and instinctive.

Outfield Play

What type of player plays in the outfield? What are the qualifications for being a good outfielder? First, if a player is left-handed, and a fast runner, he/she is probably a good prospect for outfield! Fast, right-handed people are also good prospects for outfield positions; but they can also play infield. You don’t usually want to “waste” a speedy person at First Base, unless he has extraordinary skill there, or limited throwing capacity.

An outfielder must be able to catch balls that are hit high in the air; and he must also catch them while he is running at full speed. So, if a player is a fast runner, and can catch fly-balls and “line-drives” while running full speed, and has a “good-arm,” he has a chance to become a very good outfielder, maybe a great one. 

Everyone who is a professional ball-player, and is designated as an outfielder, has good speed, a “good arm,” and can catch balls that are hit in the air (as well as potential to hit for average or power). The subtle differences, that distinguish the great outfielders from the good ones, have a lot to do with certain physical attributes, such as arm strength and accuracy, as well as running speed, and a highly productive offensive capability. But, the most-subtle characteristic that distinguishes the “greatest” from the “pack” is an intangible element resident in individual “temperament.”

The Outfield can be a lonely, boring place for a mind that lacks a special creativity. A player who always needs to be closer to the “action,” whose sense of alertness can be stimulated only by the prospect of imminent responsibility, would be better suited for “infield,” where fielding opportunities are more profuse. An outfielder doesn’t get that many chances during the course of a nine-inning game, so he can’t afford to miss “any” opportunity to help his team.

Selflessness is a key component to defining the ideal “outfielder-temperament.” He cannot hesitate to expend his energy, in any situation, even when the play is obviously not within his immediate vicinity. It is naturally expected of infielders to be under constant anticipation, when a ball is played, because of the close proximity to both the ball and the base runners. But the expenditure of energy by infielders is minimal because of the close proximity, as well as the highly motivating “imminent responsibility.”

When a ball is hit to right field, most people would think that there wouldn’t be anything for the left-fielder to do in that situation. Even in a “Big-League” game, a spectator will very seldom see the left-fielder do anything, unless that fielder happens to be one of a small percentage of players classified as “a-great-one.” Then the observer will have the opportunity to witness the creative response that characterizes the unique attitude of a great outfielder.

In anticipation of the slightest chance that a mishap could occur, the left-fielder races toward the infield and positions himself in line with the throw coming to second base from the right fielder. Maybe once in 200 chances will he be involved in an errant play, but he still responds in the same manner. It would be unconscionable that a mishap should occur and he didn’t back-up the play.

On every ground ball to third base or short-stop, the “great” right-fielder is always racing toward the first base dugout hoping to recover any errant throw that might get by the first base-man, to prevent an extra base for the runner. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does the “great one” is always ready.

To the mind of every “great” outfielder there is something important to do on every play. It has been witnessed that, on a drag bunt toward third base with a fast runner on first, while the first and third basemen were charging, and shortstop covering second, that an ever-hustling left-fielder sprinted to third base and received credit for a put-out on the runner racing around second to third base, thinking no one was covering the bag.

Anything can happen in Baseball, and the ever-thinking, creative mind of the “great” outfielder is always on the alert that “it” doesn’t happen “on his watch.” The baseball theatre is overflowing with dramatic possibilities for every situation. The “great” impresario of the outfield relishes in new and unrehearsed circumstances while the non-energetic “daisy-picker” wallows in the mental miasma of tacit mediocrity. Thus the outfield is only a dull place for the dull mind.

To reiterate, selflessness, high energy, and ingenuity characterize the excellent outfielder. Many are called, but few are chosen, or rather willing, to become supreme in that domain. Most would presume that all “that” work would have a detrimental effect on their hitting, so they opt to merely get the job done “well-enough” so as not to embarrass themselves.

Every good team has at least one great outfielder. A great team usually has more.
How and where does someone become a great outfielder? The only place to prepare to be “great” is on the practice field, both before the season begins and in pre-game batting practice during the season. Ideally the “Great One” had the good fortune of being trained properly from his youth by a knowledgeable coach. Rare!

Although the primary tool to outfield greatness is one’s mental attitude, he still has to apply himself physically to accomplish the tasks for which he is acclaimed. Two specific and crucial tasks that every outfielder tries to accomplish and for which the “great one” is most consistent in performing are: throwing out runners trying to advance to another base, and making the great running catch that everyone in the ball-park thought was a sure hit.

Both situations have a common element that all outfielders aspire to develop, but only the great ones seem to have perfected, that of getting the “jump on the ball.” Some of the fastest runners in Baseball could hardly be classified as “great ones” even though their speed certainly would have qualified them as eligible prospects.

“The man who gets to the ball the fastest is not always the fastest runner.” Getting the “jump” is a skill that takes practice. The only way to perfect this sensitive skill is through patient and “perfect” practice. (You can’t do it by merely having someone hit “fungoes” to you.) The prospective “great one” plays his position and fields balls off the bat that have been pitched, either in batting practice or in games.

Batting practice allows for more chances in shorter time. Simulated games allow for a truer sense of reaction to the pitch thrown and batter’s response. The most astute learner will apply himself with the same intensity in batting practice as in the game until this procedure becomes more than a continuous learning situation, but an established insight and infallible instinct.

What exactly is “getting the jump on the ball”? The answer is, “. . . the quickest-possible physical response by the fielder to the ball hit off the bat.” Such response is heightened by the fielder’s pre-disposed ability to “read” the type and direction of the pitch as well as the disposition of the batter to hit such pitch.

The greatest of the “great” have the uncanny knack for “taking off” seemingly before the ball is hit. To catch the ball after having gotten the great jump is a marvelous feat to behold. But the added dimension of running, catching, and then throwing a runner out at second, third, or home-plate livens any arena with gasps and exhilarating chants from awestruck fans and colleagues alike.

When a runner is safe or out “by a hair,” there is usually one reason, the outfielder did or did not get to the ball as fast as he could have. All things being equal (all outfielders having the same speed, strength and accuracy of arm), there is no doubt that the time in which the fielder got to the ball and scooped, positioned himself, and threw within the same continuous motion determined the outcome of the play.

An outfielder is not born with this type of talent. He can only acquire it through hard work. In batting practice and game-situations, he must vigorously approach every ball hit to him through the infield as one in which he “must” throw the runner out at the “plate.” He cannot practice starting fast then slowing down as he approaches the ball.

Only “Perfect” practice makes “Perfect.” He must strive to attain the most proficient “knack” for “scooping” at full speed, then manipulate his body to be able to throw powerfully and accurately (he doesn’t have to throw the ball each time—just get the body in position to throw).

Half-hearted efforts will never help to attain the full status of “the great one.” It had been witnessed that a “once great” outfielder who, for all extensive purposes, had lost a major portion of his arm strength but was a master at charging ground balls hit through the infield with a runner at second base, was so adept at this facet of his trade that, since he was so close to the infield when he picked up the ball, no third base coach felt confident to send the runner, even though “they” all knew he couldn’t throw.

The beauty of Baseball is that anyone can develop any of the specific skills of the game through hard work. And mental adroitness can enhance the sense of greatness even in those individuals without the best of natural ability.

Coming soon: Infield Play!

Part 2 – “Unified Field”… Throwing

1. Throwing
2. Fielding
3. Batting
4. Running
For each of the preceding “field-designations” there can be listed specific categories about which certain techniques for applying skills are incorporated relative to the “position” at which the particular-player is performing his primary function. When a casual spectator wanders onto, or near, a “sandlot” field or park, and witnesses the action of a group of “ball-players” throwing a baseball, he doesn’t usually think too intensely on the proficiency level of those “throwers” of the ball. But an astute aficionado of the game of Baseball would surely recognize even the mechanical facilitation of a good throwing arm from a poor one, and the relative impact it would have at the fielding position of the thrower. 
Each of the nine defensive positions on the baseball field has its own criterion for a range of competency to determine the proficiency of throwing effectiveness by those aspiring to maximum fielding prowess. A player must be capable of throwing at least at the “minimum” range of competency, in order to marginally succeed at his given position. But what determines “full-competency” in throwing a baseball?

Beyond strength and natural ability, “mechanics” is the most crucial aspect for all the “field-designations” within the singular Field of Baseball (It is mechanical correctness that determines maximum proficiency for throwing [including Pitching], batting, fielding, as well as running – to attain one’s own best level). Mechanical understanding of how one’s body can be manipulated to exact the maximum force necessary to control the “throwing, batting, and fielding of the baseball with optimum efficiency and power should be foremost in the mind of any player desiring to achieve his own best effort. And, there are aspects of running that take into account the mechanical advantage that understanding, and application foster for those who would improve speed and agility.

For the purpose of initiating discussion on implementation of a “rationale” for coaching and building a successful baseball team, let’s begin with the mechanical correctness in throwing a baseball.

Throwing a Baseball:

Nothing happens in a baseball game until after the first pitch is thrown. Throwing a baseball, then, seems to be a very important part of the game. In fact, Pitchers (and Power-Hitters) are considered the most prominent characters in the game. The ability to throw the ball hard and far evokes a mythical aggrandizement from which legends are made. See the source imageSee the source image THE NATURAL

What is it that enables one individual to throw harder and farther than another? Are some people blessed with natural ability to throw better than others? It’s hard to say when and how an individual developed certain physical characteristics associated with strength, or whether he acquired some unusual pre-natal condition that facilitated an accentuated leverage point, to produce a greater aptitude for throwing! But two things are certain: it has been observed countless times, that the seemingly “gifted” athlete cannot reach his/her full potential unless the proper body-mechanics are employed; and the “not-so-gifted” sometimes attains a higher level of success with intellectual astuteness and the utilization of proper body-mechanics.

It is common to evaluate a player’s throwing ability by saying, “. . . he/she has a strong or weak arm.” It is incorrect, though, to assume that the power of the throw is determined by the strength of the arm. The main power source for throwing is the “Body.” The arm provides only a fraction of the power.

From the coordinated precision of the movement from the feet to legs, to hips, to torso, to shoulders, to arm(s), wrist, hand, and fingers is the ultimate power registered in the “perfect throw.” Obviously, the player with the stronger body and arm, who applies the mechanics perfectly, will be more effective than the weaker player.

The stronger the body the greater the possibility for a strong throw, as long as the application of the proper mechanics for movement of shoulder(s) and arm come into play. Unfortunately, the stronger the body the greater is the vulnerability to injury of the shoulder and elbow if the application of proper mechanics is not enforced. If the power generated by the body is complete, the torque action of the twisting hips and torso could be too great for a shoulder and arm ill-prepared to deliver the final dimension of the throw.

If the shoulder is not locked into a position of stability, to launch the (bent) arm and that (5-ounce) ball forward at the precise time, the strain of having transported the spherical object from the point of origin to destination could have a deleterious effect on the accompanying extremities. The weight of a 5-ounce object doesn’t seem like it should have any major effect on the throwing apparatus of a strong, well-conditioned athlete. But if you think about the strain one feels in his shoulders, while merely extending the arms outwardly, away from the body, and sustaining that position for a period of time, you could see how any additional weight would accentuate the strain. Even more stress would be added, if you realize the extra force exerted on “those joints,” by the weight of the moving arm and ball.

“The farther the ball moves away from the body, as the arm is preparing to throw it, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow).” As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand it should remain as close as possible to the “Body-Proper,” while the arm is “whipping” itself into the forward thrusting position. (Nolan Ryan and Tanaka are the best exponents of this “principle” as pitchers.

Ichiro Suzuki is the best example as an outfielder. Raphael Furcal and Derek Jeter as infielders!  And Yadier Molina, from the catching position!)

The coordinated action of the entire body (right and left sides) provides the power for the correct arm movements to occur rapidly (and safely), and thus sustain a whip-like action to move through the “throw” like a wave of tremendous force.

On the Major League level of play, very few “Big-Leaguers” throw with flagrantly improper mechanics. Those who do, suffer the consequences, and the ill-effects are usually seen in Pitchers (but not exclusively), because of tendencies to improperly apply pressure to the ball in order for it to deviate from the customary “straight-line.”

Outfielders and First – base men, whose primary focus is batting, sometimes relax their attentions to fielding and throwing technique. Throwing skills have been refined to a high level by the time a player makes it to the Major League, so the manager or coach doesn’t usually need to monitor any player’s throwing mechanics, unless a pitcher is finding himself in need, or if a catcher, outfielder, or infielder is frequently on the “D.L.” with a “bad arm.”

Therefore, at any other level of baseball, from sandlot to minor professional leagues, a manager or coach needs to constantly monitor the throwing apparatus of the players he is trying to develop. No young (or old) player can advance to the highest level if he cannot throw effectively. In fact, Hall-of-Famer, and two-time National League MVP, Joe Morgan , would never have even advanced to the “Big-Leagues” if he hadn’t made a considerably conscious effort to improve his “throwing” in the “Minors.”

The “Coach” at the lower levels (Sand-lots High School, and College) who aspires to lead a high-quality team must institute, establish, and reinforce a teaching/learning framework for individual development that includes a motivational apparatus for self-learning and graduated improvement. He can initiate this self-motivating course of action by first orienting his “students” in what Aristotle referred to in his Nichomachian Ethics.

Aristotle pointed out, that, “in order to begin a study of anything that would lead to the highest understanding and demonstration of its universal verity, one must behold an example of a closest facsimile to the ideal estate, study its admirable characteristics, and extrapolate from its obvious functional proficiency a common entity by which a generic standard could be discerned, duplicated, and possibly expanded upon. Excellence in any field of human endeavor is achievable to anyone willing to devote a ‘heart and soul’ effort toward mastering the definable concomitants to successful enterprise.”

Is throwing a baseball composed of a generic component to which all prospective players could and should strictly adhere in order to properly promote the development of the correct mechanics? The most productive “throwers” of the ball, from each outfield and infield position, are they whose technique is almost identical in their respective positions (at least in the “Big-Leagues”).

When an infielder is making his toughest play (one that entails his longest possible throw), he will instinctively position his body and administer his arm action in a manner similar to all Big-leaguers under similar circumstances. The most conclusive example of perfect proficiency in throwing from the outfield is that illustrated by Ichiro Suzuki in his “rookie-season” as the Mariners were playing the Oakland “A”s.

On a base hit to Right Field, a speedy runner from first was racing his way to what he thought was going to be an “easy safe at third.” Instead, because of the magnificent display of body-control and mechanical throwing efficiency, Ichiro “gunned-down” the exasperated runner with a perfectly straight, accurate, and powerful throw—the recounting of which has been displayed on T.V. Sports Stations and Videos ever since.

Speed of “range,” competency to receive, quickness to release, strength to deliver, and accuracy to direct the ball (to the intended base) are integral in determining the optimum effectiveness of the fielder – the latter three relative to the precise dynamics of throwing mechanics. For a short-stop to make “that” throw from “deep-in-the-hole,” or an outfielder from right-field to third base, absolute, correct technique is mandatory.

IF he doesn’t come up “throwing over the top,” but rather side-armed, the ball will likely not be there on time (unless for an extremely slow runner). The “closest distance between two points is a straight line.” Therefore, “over-the-top” will facilitate a straight line, while “side-armed” will produce a horizontal/vertical arc that will likely allow the runner to be safe! From a close distance, a short arc is acceptable only if the infielder has no other recourse when he’s charging a slow hit ball, but to throw immediately from below as his hand touches the ball.

A coach who would portend to all his “students” that they are legitimate prospects with “Big-League” potential is more likely to get their full attention and cooperation to and with his deployment of a sound system of fundamental skill development than would a coach whose motivating proficiency will leave some without hope and willingness to aspire to any high level. Too many players at the High School and College levels “Know” that they have “no chance” of becoming a “Big-Leaguer,” so why are they even on the team?

Most often it is because they have always been “pretty-good,” but either never had a “good-coach” to correct their “mechanical deficiencies,” or they were too stubborn to listen to that “good-coach.” Consequently, some coaches of mediocre teams have “stock-piles” of unmotivated students whose lack-luster performances are due to the fact that they cannot put their hearts and souls into what seem like nothing more than “High-School-Harry” heroics with merely a varsity letter for which to look forward.

In College the only difference is that some of the recruited High School “Blue-chippers” who turned down modest “Bonus-Money” from professional organizations are again the ones blatantly catered to with “pompous” disregard for fringe players who languish in virtual obscurity, left with only the “fallen scraps” from their masters’ table. Once in a while a “gutsy” individual is able to take advantage of limited opportunities and builds his own “resume” of consistent, team-oriented success until he proves to be “no-fluke,” and subsequently rises above the “crème of the crop” and provides a legacy to himself. But he probably would have had to do it himself.

The Best of coaches is he who does not “Cater” to “any one,” but rather to the collective sense of team-oriented “individual” development for all. In most (if not all) High School Programs, there is not found a single individual who looks the part of “Big-League” player when he is playing catch to warm-up before practice or game. Before each inning, while fielding ground balls from the first base-man, hardly ever is the infielder simulating the movement and throws of the professional ball-player. All because he doesn’t have a clear picture of a “Big-leaguer” in his mind!

That “amateur” doesn’t see or feel himself as a “Pro”! Why? Because he hasn’t reinforced his skills in the practice of simulating the actions of his “idol”- his “Hero”! Each aspiring “student-of-the-game” must become an astute observer of Aristotle’s admonition: “one must behold an example of a closest facsimile to the ideal estate, study its admirable characteristics, and extrapolate from its obvious functional proficiency a common entity by which a generic standard could be discerned, duplicated, and possibly expanded upon. Excellence in any field of human endeavor is achievable to anyone willing to devote ‘a heart and soul’ effort toward mastering the definable concomitants to successful enterprise.”

A requirement for all prospective “super-stars” of the “Game” should be to sit-and-watch at least parts of two “big-league” games a week. “The-Coach” can easily tell who would be the dedicated players on his team! Some prospective players that I have encountered never watch baseball games, on T.V. or at the ball-park, yet they want me to help them become “good” ball-players! What or who is their “reference point”?

The “good” coach excites all of his players with the prospect of each becoming a star-performer. Their individual drive and determination to be the best they can be, and their innate capacity to develop, along incremental lines of progress, those skills necessary to emulate the “greatest” of players at each his own position, challenges themselves to methodically and arduously simulate every action of that “big-leaguer.” And he and his partner will warm-up at practice, before a game, and in-between-innings in similar fashion. Eventually, the positive “germinating” effect will “kick-in” and he, like a “body-builder” faithfully following his daily-regimented routine, will one day recognize a noticeably enhanced characteristic-attribution.

The ultimate goal in the mind of the “great” Coach would be to establish a realistic sense of “Sameness,” the spiritual essence of which proves the “Truth of Harmony’s Perfect Oneness.” In Spirit we are all the same; the differences in form would be insignificant because they conceal the sameness of content that is found in everyone’s mind. But, in what would be considered the “present sense” of things, certain individuals seem advanced beyond their teammates, therefore putting themselves in the more noticeable positions of prominence in regard to garnering the more “prestigious” assignments in the field (as well as batting).

Those players currently mired in the mediocre stages of development, if faithful (as a “mustard-seed”) to the course of action that soundly promotes a genuine enhancement of technique, will soon supersede their present ineptness with graduating states of comprehensible prowess.

Infinite Patience of an Absolute Faith will produce the “immediate effect” of what Einstein would have wanted to realize in his own goal for his “unified field theory.” But his “short-sighted-finite perception-in-matter” couldn’t establish the “insightful” true perception that reveals what the “miracle” displays by means of “mindful-fore-giveness.”

You must envision for yourself all the attributes of a “big-league” player, even though those traits are not yet evident to “outside” observation. You might arduously, but hopefully, put forth a “heart and soul” effort to fulfill the destiny of your inner reality with “perfect-practice.” Then, you cannot help but raise yourself to new and greater heights of glory.

There is no end to what the mind can imagine. Even Einstein exclaimed, “Imagination is more powerful than Knowledge,” for he knew there was a major difference between the “dream” and one who lives his dream. So, put your mind to “Good-use” and see your true potential, and realize its fulfillment. Don’t be merely a “forgetful hearer,” but a “doer” of the Principle – “law of liberty.”

The student who has the dedication and yearning to be the best he can be will gain respect for his uncommon “work-ethic,” but he will not be congratulated, acclaimed, and rewarded unless he “proves his worth.” The Coach can be his “way-shower” and gently guide him along the “Path to Stardom,” but cannot do the work for him.

The coach cannot always tell him every little thing to do. After his initial indoctrination into the “Art and Science” of “Perfect Practice,” it is up to the student to take the initiative to strengthen and perfect his “enterprise” with tirelessness and consistency as well as his own creative ingenuity. The coach may provide venues for promoting individual growth and development, but since there is no limit to what one’s mind can imagine, the student is invited to think “outside the box” and supersede even his Hero’s or his Coach’s expectations.

In Baseball, “Size” is not the determining factor for the success of an individual, whether for throwing or hitting a baseball. It is not a freak accident that Pitchers like 5 foot 8 and 9 inch Billy Wagner  and Craig Kimbrel throw the ball as hard as 6 foot 3 inch and 6 foot 10 inch Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

And 5 foot 8 inch Joe Morgan and Jimmy Wynn could hit balls as far as guys almost twice their size.

Size does not determine strength, but “correct mechanics” and reinforced thought and muscular integration with the synergistic movement of body-parts does produce the most energy for rapid motion as it is converted to power. (A similar analogy would be that of a Karate master applying the “focus” to his punch or strike.)See the source image

Aside from the apparent size differential, the four pitchers mentioned above have one thing in common: When they begin their power thrust with the turning upper body (including the shoulder and arm) after the bent legs have initiated the power drive of the twisting hips, the throwing arm has already been locked into place at a position of at least 90 degrees. This, in order to assure the fastest possible forward rotation of the shoulder to allow a quick moving arm to assist the wrist, hand, and fingers to propel the ball at maximum speed!

Therefore, the primary throwing criterion mentioned earlier comes into play, namely: “The farther the ball moves away from the body, as the arm is preparing to throw it, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow).” As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand it should remain as close as possible to the “Body-Proper,” while the arm is “whipping” itself into the forward thrusting position. It is only reasonable to presume that a bent arm throughout the entire action prior to the throw would be the most efficient means of facilitating a rapid, powerful, and “safe” shoulder thrust, since there would be less weight to transport to the “launch.”

It is widely accepted, from the “Big-Leagues” to “Sandlots,” that on the Infield the Third Base-men and Short-stops (I wonder how they got that name?) have to have the stronger arms because of the longer distance they most often throw the ball. Second Base-men and First Base-men don’t usually have to make as long a throw. But, obviously, it is to a Team’s best interest to have good – arms at all infield positions because of the few (and sometimes critical) times when a strong throw could mean the difference in a “safe” or “out,” win or loss.

In the Outfield, the Center-fielder and Right-fielder usually have more long throws than the left fielder. But the best possible outfield would be comprised of equal arm-strength for the same obvious reasons as well as to be able to inter-change positions at any time.

All mental facility and “character” being equal, the “Unified Field Theory-Experience” as applied to Baseball Throwing would essentially mean that all players in all 9 defensive positions would have the “same” ultimate power and accuracy in their throws. No matter what their respective sizes are, maximum efficiency is based primarily on equal understanding and application of the principle of the “infallibly scientific art” of correct throwing mechanics.

This phenomenon, if feasible, would be a comforting delight for any manager or team, for the prospect of interchangeable parts could be practically beneficial. However, the arena in which more differentiation of skill is noticeable is in the “designation” of “Fielding.” If all the players on a team could throw equally well, that condition may not necessarily transfer over to the “Art of Fielding,” either in the infield or the outfield.

There have been infielders who began their Big-Leagues careers playing Short-stop (like Robin Yount), then moved to Center-field. And Center-fielders (like Bill Russell) who moved to Short-stop! Catchers (like Troy Percival and Jason Mott) who became Pitchers, while a catcher (like Craig Biggio) became an All-Star Outfielder and Second Base-man.

Correct throwing mechanics (as well as batting skills in some cases) kept them “in the game” until they found the position best suited for them. Now, is there a “generic” component that would foster the development of all prospective team players to be equally adept in “fielding” all positions with the “same” proficiency?

Coming Soon: Fielding – Outfield Play

A “Unified Field” Experience for Successfully Coaching Baseball

A “Unified Field” Experience for Successfully Coaching Baseball
John F. Paciorek

In Physics, a unified field theory is a type of “field” (an imagined “ideal”) that would allow all that are usually thought of as separate fundamental forces and elementary particles to be written or applied in terms of a single field and to ultimate into a “unified-equal- experience.” There is currently neither an accepted unified field theory nor its ultimate practical counterpart, and thus it remains an open line of research.

The term “unified field” theory was coined by Einstein, who attempted to unify the Theory of General Relativity with Electromagnetism which in turn would proceed to the incorporation of four seemingly distinct forces into One: “strong interaction, weak interaction, electromagnetic interaction, and gravitational interaction,” and eventually provide a practical application.

A more “spiritualized” slant would not be dissimilar to the relationship of Adhesion, Cohesion, and the Law of Attraction and their practical application to enhanced needs. The ultimate metaphysical example is “Atonement” or the underlying, substantive unity of all things animate and inanimate, seen and unseen, of and from which casual worldly perception falls short of discernment.

Physical Science would denote that “the whole is equal to the sum of its parts.” But the essence of metaphysically inspired thought would more than imply that “the Whole (Oneness) is greater than the sum of individual parts.”From a “material-basis” it is impossible to form a cogent, unified theory from which to incorporate a singular harmonious effect because it appears that innumerable causes are influencing each other in contradictory ways to effect conflicting purposes.

Most notable in our “common” sense of universal acceptance is the stoic indifference to a seemingly inherent Competitive nature whose only glory comes from someone winning while another loses – in Athletics as well as in War, and oft-times in common Human relationships!

If it were up to Rumi, a 13th Century Persian Mystic-Poet, “there can be no winner unless everyone wins.” Rumi implies that, in all of life’s “competitive” encounters, there is a viable alternative to the traditional conclusion that someone wins while another loses. His conclusion was that no one really wins unless everyone wins.

A Course in Miracles would enhance that idea with, “No-one goes to Heaven alone – everyone goes together.” Enhanced even farther through Abraham – Hicks and the Law of Attraction, “Everyone’s ‘inner-being’ is Now and Always already in the non-competitive environment of Heaven’s Vortex, but most are unaware of it.” So, it would behoove everyone in our present “relative” state of existence to provide for the winning environment from and in which each and all can experience the inherent fairness acceptable to the all-encompassing Game of Life.

On a Universal level, all the components that make up the Whole physical world are the constituents in varying degrees of evolution, and are derived from a Source completely “non-physical,” but none-the-less whose essence projects and extends Its Intent for Infinite expansion into perpetuity. And in modest micro-cosmic order, the body of that which is identified as man is a singular “unit” of function, but composed of trillions of individual cells whose harmonious vibrational unity and cohabitation affects the optimal functionality of the entire organism.

And what is it that determines the common frequency of vibrational communication within the cellular network to assure the Organism of perfect health and functionality but a seemingly “remote” and intangible Source from whose infallible intelligence can best direct and control the operation of life with inexhaustible and impeccable precision.

All the seemingly conflicting forces predicate their individual successes on separate and independent interests. Is there any “single” entity, whose ultimate and universal pursuit of “excellence,” could/would incorporate all the separate and distinct facets of “Being” into a legitimate and recognizable configuration of “sameness,” and ameliorate all sense of contradiction and conflict? Only the unadulterated essence of “Spirit” and Its own universal application of “goodness” has the inherent capacity for lawful exercise of Truth in a world seeking solutions of/with/for peace.

The Universal Law of Attraction is that accommodating Force by which “That which is like unto itself is drawn,” and is the means by which Einstein could/would have fulfilled his “dream” of a “Unified Field” theory: “that imagined ideal that would allow all that are usually thought of as separate fundamental forces and elementary particles to be written or applied in terms of a single-field” and to ultimate into a “unified-equal-experience,” the maximum result of which revealing the unification of an otherwise seemingly unequal distribution of Primary attributions. (As the foot is casually thought of as an inferior organ to the head, what and how would the body be without it? On a more collective note, what and where would a team be without a second-baseman or right-fielder?)

In the seemingly unified “Field” of Baseball there are a multitude of “field-oriented” designations that comprise the scope of the ultimate baseball experience. These designations are aspects integral to the development of an individual baseball player as well as defining the quality of the team on which each player performs. The designations for which all prospects to baseball success must apply themselves are the following:
1. Throwing
2. Fielding
3. Batting
4. Running

Coming Soon: Throwing a Baseball.

New Book – Chapter 40 – “The Mick”: As Good as They Get

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 40 of my new Book, If I Knew Then What I Know Now. It depicts a 1964 Spring Training game, Houston Colt .45s vs. the New York Yankees at Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

See the source image      See the source image  See the source image

“The Mick”: As Good as They Get

It was going to be a long ride, so I found a couple of baseball magazines to read during the trip. The cover picture on one had a photograph of a powerful-looking Mickey Mantle, from the 1950s. There were more pictures inside, but I would wait until I was on the bus before viewing them.

As we were boarding the bus, Ralph Salvon, one of our trainers, was passing out bags of lunch to each of the players. What a pleasant surprise that was! When I was onboard, Joe (Morgan) said, “They provided lunches yesterday as well. I saved some of mine for after the game. They just gave out bottles of water for the trip back home.”

That was thoughtful! I figured I’d probably be hungry about 11:00 am. Bus travel in the big leagues was great, even in spring training. Nice, comfortable seats on a luxury Greyhound sure was better than minor-league transportation. Since I was earlier than most onto the bus, I sat in the middle and was hoping no one would care to sit with me. Only twenty players were traveling, so most players had private seats. A few “buddies” wanted to sit together. The bus left at exactly nine thirty.

After doing a little “deep breathing” and entertaining some quiet thoughts about today’s game, and seeing “The Mick” for the first time, I began looking at the magazine I brought along. Page after page featured Mickey swinging! All the swings looked good, but some pictures caught “the Mick” either missing the ball or fouling it off. A few of the photographs depicted what I would consider a perfect swing, at the “contact point”See the source image and at the end of his “follow-through.” From those images, it is easy to feel as though he might be the most powerful hitter in baseball.

From the start of his “gathering,” his front shoulder was wrapped around his chin , and his rounded back looked as if it would supply the maximum leverage to accommodate fast and powerful muscular contractions to facilitate the turning action of the upper body through the swing. See the source image At the contact point See the source image, every part of his body was in order: bent back knee driving the back hip forward with perfect horizontal balance with the front hip. His front shoulder “shrugged” to allow a natural upward tilt to the angle of his bat; front leg straightened with ideal foot-plant (foot, at a 120-degree angle to the pitcher); and an uncommonly well-balanced follow-through.  See the source image His swing not only depicted a perfectly aligned “vertical axis” but a concentrated momentum flow of his hips and shoulders that only further attributed to his incredible flexibility and power.
* * *
I had heard that, before the 1951 baseball season had begun, the Yankees were spring training in Arizona. On a trip to the University of Southern California, they played a few games on the University’s baseball field. Nineteen-year-old Mantle See the source image was reported to have hit a right-handed home run 600 feet. Then in a subsequent at bat, he hit one, left-handed, the distance of 650 feet. I had always thought that people were exaggerating, even when more than one reliable source marked off the distance . But after studying the “mechanics” of his swing and calculating the efficiency of his fluid body and range of motion, I realized that if anyone could have done it, it would be “The Mick,” even with his weighing just 185 lbs.See the source image
* * *
Looking at Mantle in “street clothes,” See the source image I would have to say that he was the most naturally photogenic man I’d ever seen. He looked good in everything.See the source image His head, his face, every part of his body seemed perfectly proportioned. See the source image See the source image See the source image He certainly was the “all-American boy,” and most sports fans saw him that way. Too bad he was injured so much.See the source image

“Bussie” was really rolling down the highway! We made it to Fort Lauderdale by eleven forty-five. I ate most of my roast beef and Swiss cheese sandwich by eleven o’clock. So after a restroom break, I was ready to play.

When I walked onto the field, I was hoping to see Maris and “the Mick,” at least sitting in the third base dugout. The Yankees finished their pregame workout ten minutes earlier and wouldn’t be out until right before warming up again for the game.

I thought I’d better go out to left field and see if there were any peculiarities I should be aware of. Everything was fine. The sun might be difficult only when I go to my right. Rusty will be looking right into it later in the game.

After throwing a little with Rusty, we took infield/outfield practice and were ready to start. The Yankee lineup did include Maris and Mantle. Maris was hitting third, and Mickey was “cleanup,” followed by Tom Tresh, Joe Pepitone, Elston Howard, Clete Boyer, and Whitey Ford. Phil Linz and Bobby Richardson were batting in front of Maris.

Bob Bruce was pitching for us, so with Maris, Mantle, Tresh, and Pepitone, four lefties would be batting in a row. Rusty might get pretty busy. I wondered if I’d have to be doing a lot of “backing up” along the third base line?

We were up first, so my first concern would be to bat against the “legendary” Whitey Ford. Because of our lineup change, Joe Gaines stayed at home, and Jimmy replaced him. Because of the left-handed Ford pitching, Jimmy was batting fourth, behind me, followed by Walt, Rusty, Aspro, and Bateman, as well as Bruce…

Our half of the first inning ended as we had taken a 2-0 lead, with the mighty Yanks coming up. I raced out to my position, and as he jogged in, Mickey paused and turned back to give me a look then continued into his own dugout.

Someone was going to have to get on base, if I was going to see Mantle bat this inning. The bottom of the inning began with Phil Linz hitting a ground ball through the right side of the infield for a base hit. Bobby Richardson then wasted no time in driving a base hit to right field as well. Since the ball was a line drive between Rusty and Jimmy, Linz, a runner with good speed, decided to go to third. He must not have been aware that Rusty had a very good arm.

Rusty fielded the ball and threw what appeared to be a “strike” to Aspro at third base. Unfortunately, the ball careened off the back of Linz’s helmet. Bruce was “backing up” the play, in a direct line with the throw. But the ball ricocheted to his far left, even before Linz could begin a slide. Third base coach Frankie Crossetti reacted immediately and waved his arms and yelled out to keep going home.

What no one else realized was that I was performing my customary “hustling duty,” as I would always do when playing left field. When the ball was first hit toward right center, I immediately started running toward the third base dugout. Not very often is there a chance to do something spectacular, but when a circumstance would occur, I never wanted to miss my opportunity for something “heroic.” And the current incident certainly presented that moment for “glory.”

As soon as the ball careened from Linz’s helmet, the Yankee coach seized the opportunity to capitalize with an immediate response. But since I was “there” to retrieve the ball, I caught it and moved quickly toward third, getting ready to throw to Bateman, at home.

Linz had already rounded third at full speed before Crossetti realized I had “materialized out of nowhere.” He then yelled for Linz to “get back.” Linz stopped about twenty feet off the bag and started coming back. But he saw that I was coming fast, with the ball in my hand. So he automatically got into what he assumed would be a “rundown.”

But I had a “full head of steam” and was running straight at him. He started for home, but before he lost complete sight of me, I faked a throw, which made him hesitate momentarily, allowing me to run him down and apply a quick tag. Richardson had already advanced to second, on the throw to third, and was thinking about advancing again, with the impending “rundown” in order.

When I made the “tag-out” quickly, I immediately looked for him and found him far off the base at second. With the baseball already in my throwing hand, I quickly set myself and “rifled a bullet” to Joe, who put the tag on the diving Yankee, to complete an unconventional “double play.”

As the play ended, I was standing near the Yankee dugout. I heard a loud voice at the front end and looked to see and hear what was being said. There was The Mick, with bat in hand, ready to approach the “on-deck circle.” I heard him say, in a patronizing tone, “Looks like we got us another Charlie Hustle.”

I ran back to my left field position, as my teammates applauded my exploits. I assumed Mantle’s comments were complementary. How could they not be? I thought.

There were two outs, and Roger Maris was up. He was an impressive-looking hitter, with a smooth swing. See the source imageFrom what I had read, I always felt bad about how unappreciated he seemed to be, especially after breaking Babe Ruth’s home run record. I wished he could have appreciated his own accomplishment in a manner more suitable to its heroic value. I guess, in time, he will receive his “just due.”

On Bruce’s second pitch, Roger “turned” on an inside fastball and sent a towering fly ball to deep right field.See the source image Rusty turned to go back for it, but after a few steps, he knew his effort would be futile.

With the score now 2–1, The Mick was coming up for his first at-bat of the day. While Maris was impressive in his demeanor and stance, Mantle was “imposing!” He wasn’t that big, but his “stature” reminded me of that Chinese American “gung-fu” guy in Fresno. Mickey and Bruce displayed a physical presence that defied general perception. Although this would be my first actual, personal encounter with the Yankee slugger, the pictures and television viewings of his exploits saturated my mind with memorable visions of monumental proportions.

He’s batting left-handed against the right-handed (Bob) Bruce. He’s generally a “pull hitter,” but he did hit home runs to the opposite field and “off-balanced” grounders that he was once able to “beat out” for hits. “I doubt if I’ll see much action from off his bat. But I’ll be ready any way,” I admonished myself.

As I watched from my left field vantage point, I could not help but be in awe of the power he could generate in his swing. His feet were relatively close together (shoulder-width apart), knees were bent naturally to facilitate maximum balance, while his body leaned slightly toward the plate. His front shoulder was turned inward, and his hands held his bat perpendicular to ground, at the height of a “high-strike.”See the source image

Bruce’s first-pitch fastball was swung at with ferocity and sent a foul ball whistling directly back behind home plate; he just missed it. The next pitch was “off-speed” and caught Mickey (and his long stride) way out in front, while “topping” a ground ball into our first base dugout.

With an 0–2 count, Bruce threw a curveball in the dirt. Although Mickey almost swung, he held up, off his front foot. Now with a 1 and 2 count, Bruce made a big mistake in trying to throw what looked like an outside-corner fastball past the Mick.

From my standpoint, I could see the coiling action of Mickey’s “gathering mechanism” synchronize perfectly with his ostensible stride. As his front foot planted, the torqueing action of his body came into synergistic accord with his entire batting regimen. As his front leg straightened to initiate the backward movement of his opening front hip, his back bent knee had already begun its forceful drive forward with his fast turning back hip.

Then the fluid and powerful upper body came into play as his “shrugged” front shoulder turned violently in circular fashion around his horizontally rotated hips. This action brought his back shoulder, arms, and bat to the focal point where “hickory and a hardbound leather projectile” came into a perfectly orchestrated coincidental contact.

At contact, I could see the “towering trajectory” and knew immediately that Jimmy wasn’t going to catch that blast to straightaway center field.See the source image As I detected the directional flow of the ball at impact, my body responded instinctively with a quick burst toward center field. But after two steps, I could see there would be no need for “backup.”

That missile traveled well past the four hundred–foot distance to the fence. Even as I was moving toward center field, my mind’s eye could picture Mickey’s “picturesque follow-through.” His back shoulder didn’t stop, after contact, until it had driven his back arm to extension through the swing and wrapped around the right-front portion of his body and placed itself directly in front of his twisted torso.See the source image

What muscular joint flexibility! It’s no wonder he could generate such power. If he didn’t stride, he’d probably be less apt to swing and miss as much as he did. As I was watching his somewhat “limping trot” around the bases, he seemed to deviate from his customary, “humble, head-down” demeanor when, after rounding second base, his head tilted right and his smiling glance seemed to imply that he was still a formidable force to be reckoned with. My own “thumb-up” certainly confirmed that inference.

If you enjoyed that excerpt, you’ll no-doubt enjoy the other 52 chapters of my Book when it comes out of publication sometime in February. I might include other excerpts from those chapters before the publication date.

Post 2017 World Series Evaluation – by John F. Paciorek

The 2017 World Series was, in my estimation, the “Greatest” ever. But of course I’d probably say that about any of the previous “Series” that captivated me at almost every moment I was watching. I loved the Astros; and I loved the Dodgers. I wanted “it” to go seven-games, so I rooted for the team that was behind until it got through six. Then, I figured the team that demonstrated the higher “proclivity” for victory would win. I was sorry for the Dodgers, but elated for the Astros, since “it” was their “FIRST”!

There were moments of brilliance for every player at some point during the Series, even for those who didn’t feel they lived up to their own expectations. And there were those who performed at a higher level than anyone would have expected them to perform. Congratulations to both the Winners and those perceived Losers! Both teams gave the fans what they wanted: excitement, glory, amazement, vicarious attachment, and above all gratitude and appreciation for jobs WELL-DONE!

Aside from the obvious misgivings most spectators had about the “Home-Plate-Umpiring” on Balls and Strikes, there was probably a collective appreciation for the dedication of the umpires in attempting to call balls and strike correctly. To be 100% accurate is completely out of their human-mortal hands.

Ted Williams, in his prime, could not be 100% accurate making “calls” from behind the catcher. No person’s eyes are fast enough to counteract the “framing-techniques” of the astute “backstop,” as well the modern pitchers’ uncanny knack for making their pitches dart, slide, drop, curve so abruptly in and around the “corners” of the plate. It’s impossible!

If there was a flaw in the World Series, it had to pertain to gnawing, gut reaction that I felt every time the batter or pitcher had to suffer the mental, and emotional indignity of capitulating to the home-plate umpire’s incorrect “call.” Come-on MLB! You can fix this with the “Electronic-Strike-Zone!

Although the entire Play-Off Series games were very enjoyable, I couldn’t help but feel badly for those batters who only sporadically lived up to their inherent potential. Cody Bellinger, Cory Seager, Bryce Harper, Justin Turner, Aaron Judge, and others can’t seem to figure out why they are so erratic in their levels of batting performance. Altuve, Correa, Springer were not altogether unflawed as well.

If anyone reading the following essay has the ability to contact these individuals, and others who suffer from the same inconsistencies, give them your same opportunity to realize the proper means for becoming a consistent batting – master.

HERO or GOAT – The Difference Is?

The question that is almost never on the minds of sports columnists, analysts, and fans is, “Who’s going to bat .400 this year?” Everyone except the “most imaginative” seeker of a proven “Batting Principle” will agree that it is unlikely (if not impossible) that any batter of the modern era would be capable of changing his “mind-set” in order to determine a new and practical approach to “Batting Excellence.”

What is the difference between a .200 hitter (1 for 5) and a .400 hitter (2 for 5)? The simple and obvious answer, to the “superficial” observer, is 1 hit! Except, of course, if he batted 10 times. Then, it’s 2 hits (2 for 10; 4 for 10)then(3 for 15; 6 for 15).  It’s starts getting  complicated as each batter compiles an additional 5 at-bats. It would seem relatively easy to sustain a “clip” of 1 hit every 5 times at-bat. Does it seem outlandish to imagine the prospect of getting 2 hits in every 5 at-bats?

What does anyone actually know about a .400 hitter? Has anyone actually seen one in our generation? Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionTed Williams, in 1941, was the last batter to reach that high level of consistent hitting for a whole season. We’ve seen quite a few .200 hitters; they seem to be rather plentiful! Can the .400 hitter be easily distinguishable from the .200 hitter? Again, it’s hard to say. We have little verification that the prospect of another one could really exist. (It’s like “Big-foot”; people who say they’ve seen him give compatible descriptions as to what he could look like!) Some back-woods “bush-leagues” have probably come the closest to producing a legitimate prototype Roy Hobbs 2, but never actually authenticated the “Genuine-Article” for practical use in the Big-Leagues.IMG_1217 (I know that Aaron Pointer batted .401 for the Salisbury Braves in Salisbury, North Carolina in 1961 while playing in the Western Carolina League.)

While devising the basic formula that would produce an ideal hitter, the prospect for a solution to the problem of inefficient bats-man-ship lay in the degree to which the batter is consistently able to apply the proper mechanics to his swing. It has been established over many years of observation, and finally deduced, that one’s high degree of athleticism is not the major factor in producing the best hitting credentials. The ability to devise (detect), interpret, and apply the proper mechanics to the swing is the major determinant in establishing a credible batting prowess.

The main ingredients to establishing the proper mechanics are these: secure stance, visual stability, minimum stride, and quick compact swing.

Barry Bonds 3Mark Mcgwire 4don-mattingly 1A secure stance implies that the batter has postured himself in a most foundationally  advantageous position from which to clearly detect the pitcher’s release of the ball, as well provide a strong, functional mobility with which the body can react quickly to respond effectively and appropriately to the speed, flight pattern and nuances of the pitched ball.

Yaz-3Joe Morgan1TedWilliamsShortSwing2 Visual stability infers that, from a secure stance, the head of the batter will maintain a constant position, from the point that the pitcher releases the ball, through the torque of the swing, and during and after the follow-through, to assure that the eyes retain maximum acuity for proper and consistent focus on the target.

DSC_0125DSC_0126BarryBonds_bat flatBarry Bonds 11Minimum stride refers to the least amount of preliminary movement necessary for the batter to facilitate preparatory body momentum to effect a quick and powerful response to the pitched ball. Remembering that optimal visual acuity is essential to effective hitting, and that ultimate power is activated not by predisposed linear movement, the most efficient use of the stride would logically be to take no stride at all.

Barry Bonds 2Barry Bonds 4Barry Bonds 8Barry Bonds 9A quick compact swing is one in which the minimum of time is elapsed after the front foot has been securely  planted and the batter initiates and completes the turn of the hips and shoulders, with the arms and bat following in rapid succession with the minimum of ostensible drag. A point to always remember is that the lower the center of gravity the quicker and more powerful will be the turn of hips and shoulders.

These four aspects of proper mechanics constitute what would be considered a sound physical approach to applying oneself to the prospective “art” of hitting a baseball. If you have watched professional ballplayers taking batting practice before the game, you might have observed that they all seemed to look the same, as they blasted away at moderately fast moving batting practice pitches.

Their stances seemed secure, knees bent slightly for effective balance. They hit every pitch, so they must have seen the ball clearly. They appeared calm and in control; minimum of extraneous movement—lunging at the ball. And most were demonstrating quick powerful strokes that carried the ball into the bleachers. Batting practice is always an awesome spectacle to behold! After watching such a display you might think that any or every one of those batters could be a .400 hitter. And why can’t they be?

On every Big-League team there is probably to be found at least one .300 hitter and a range of hitters from the high .200s to the low .200s. But no one batting .400 (except during an uncustomary prolific first month, or so). Is there an actual scientific reason for a player to be a .400 or better hitter in batting practice, and a .200 hitter in games? And, is there a scientific rationale for that .400 batting practice hitter to apply to his game-condition, that would allow him to maintain that .400 “stroke” throughout the season?

To answer the first question, no really scientific explanation is necessary. Professional players are good, strong athletes with great hand eye coordination. A batting practice pitcher elicits no fear at all. And the sense of confidence that exudes when fear is not present, plus the one-dimensional component to hitting accurately thrown, moderate fastballs, have a tendency to induce a player to exhibit the fulfillment of highest physical potential. Unfortunately, the mental approach, for many of these physically endowed batting practice participants, is merely a pre-game physical exercise to loosen their bodies for the real-live performance.

At game time, you might notice a formerly relaxed and confident “Bleacher-Blaster” now exhibiting body language that expresses a less than authoritative approach to addressing the preeminent “mounds-man.” As he nervously swaggers his bat to and fro, the batter anxiously tries to regain the comfort-pose he postured, with nonchalance, during B.P. Somehow his confidence has sunk below anticipation level while facing the disdainfully insensitive eyes of a formidable (alien) pitcher. The semi-taut muscles that provided ample support for slightly bent but fluidly mobile knee joints, during Batting Practice, suddenly stiffened inexplicably, to accommodate an immediate need for improved stability.

The first 93 MPH fastball caught his reflexes just a tad “in arrears,” as his bat-speed languished in 85mph range, and sent a poorly calibrated foul-ball to the off-side of the back-stop. A demeanor that implied untold gratitude for even touching the speeding projectile precluded an ominous prediction about the success of his subsequent attempts. Needless to say, a brilliant sequence of masterfully placed pitches sent the batter back to his dugout, after “His Eminence” concluded the series with an off-speed breaking pitch that had the high gliding bats-man lunging out, over his front foot, and whiffing at a ball whose bottom half seemed to disintegrate before his disconcerting, dangling eyeballs.

The preceding experience could have happened. In fact, it has happened, many times. And, it will happen again, because the common baseball player mentality is geared to think and act in accordance to how something Feels, not how intellectually and mechanically correct a proposition is.

Baseball players tend to oblige themselves to the notion that “practice-makes-perfect.” They try to avoid the complete axiom that “perfect practice-makes-perfect,” because, in most cases, to do the intelligently and mechanically correct thing “doesn’t feel good.”

Most professionals will agree that a secure stance, visual stability, minimum stride, and a quick compact swing are essential ingredients to obtaining an optimal range of hitting proficiency. However, many factors influence one’s interpretation of how to apply these components to the individual temperament and physical makeup of every player.

To what extent is a secure stance vindicated by the varying degrees of bent-knees to maintain a low center of gravity? Can optimal visual stability be perfected in a batter who insists on maintaining a high stance and excessive stride, or even a modest stride? Can a player who doesn’t stride generate enough quickness and torque from the mere rotary action of hips and shoulders (initiated by the correct knee action) to elicit formidable power to express his swing to its maximum extent?

Individual physical characteristics of each player obviously have to be taken into consideration before anyone can prescribe the most beneficial interpretation for use of the main physical ingredients to successful “Batting.” A great cook does not put the same amount of salt and pepper into a pot of stew when feeding himself, as he does when he’s catering a banquet! (And here, Yogi might say he’s not going to any banquet where all they’re serving is stew.) A short bow-legged player may not have to crouch as low as a tall, straight-legged player to facilitate an equivalent of speed and torque during the power-turn of hips and shoulders. But a taller player would have to bend his knees more to establish an equivalent strike zone to a shorter player.

Most ballplayers think that a batting average of .400 and above is impossible, so the probability of their reaching that level is negligible, if not impossible. Even if they ascribed to the precept that “thought precedes action,” they would still have to contend with a list of preconceived notions that would stifle any consistent progress they could make along sound intellectual and mechanical lines. The greatest deterrent to ultimate batting progress is the reluctance of any hitter within the .250 to .300 range to change any aspect of his swing that could possibly further reduce his presently respectable average.

A batter’s average throughout the second half of the season is determined by how well the pitcher can keep his pitches within the areas, in and outside the strike-zone, that the particular batters will either swing at errantly or cannot hit easily. If a batter has flaws in his mechanics (as well as in his mental approach to discerning the pitcher’s intent), scouting reports will generally identify the symptoms of such, and good pitchers will attempt to sabotage all vestiges of prior success due to misplaced pitches.

Is there a way to make the “hitting-game” easy to apply, and to genuinely extrapolate from a logical, rational, and orderly set of hypotheses a character whose special mental and physical talents would legitimize a .400 or better hitting phenomenon? The answer to that question is Yes!

The next .400, or better, hitter will be a batter who confidently walks to the plate with the understanding that the pitcher is tenaciously going to attempt to throw the baseball passed him. He realizes that the pitcher will be standing on a mound that is almost a foot above the plane of home plate. He intelligently deduces that the flight of the ball will be descending toward the plate at a speed varying from 70 to 100 MPH. He is conscious of the fact that the ball, after travelling a distance of more than 50 feet, will have to traverse the length of an 18inch wide home plate while maintaining a height range varying with the degree to which the batter’s knees and chest are separated by measure.

And, he does not have to go out and attack the ball. The ball will come to him. With patience, he will let it arrive into his zone, then quickly and efficiently dispose of it—if he prepares himself properly. Barry Bonds HRBarry Bonds 17Albert Pujols 15Ted Williams - swing

While fully apprised of the physical parameters and logistics of pitcher-batter inter-play, in order to counteract all of the menacing tactics of an astute and finely tuned prestidigitator of mounds-man-ship, the .400 hitter will have to demonstrate near impeccable application of sound mechanics. He must also deprive his opponent of any additional advantage, to which the predominant pitcher has been previously accustomed.

To establish maximum stability and optimal viewing, the .400 hitter assumes a stance as low as will accommodate a minimum of discomfort. From this position, he not only will facilitate the most stable foundation from which to elicit the fastest possible reaction time to any assortment of pitched balls, but will also considerably diminish the area to which the umpire can define as a strike for the pitcher. Thus, the pitcher’s workload becomes a bit more excessive. (Score 1 for the .400 hitter).

If the batter’s stance is low, and spread to the extent of what would be the distance of his stride, his stable position better prepares him to view the incoming pitch. The distance between a high or low pitch is now so negligible that the batter will have less difficulty adjusting to the pitcher’s choice of location, presenting the additional conundrum for any team’s pitching staff. Therefore any “strike” is in the batter “wheel-house.” The pitcher no longer has that deceptive leverage-point that he had grown accustomed to with the batter in a high stance. (Score 2 for the .400 hitter).

Everything, to this point, has been for the purpose of more than adequately preparing the batter to effectively encounter what the pitcher has to offer. Now, the moment of application of mechanically precise engineering, which really attests the difference between the .400 and .200 hitters, comes into play. With stance secure, and vision stabilized, the pre- conditioned, natural sequential flow of body parts, choreographed to the rhythm of the whistling ball in flight, begins with a “gathering” of energy, shifting the weight slightly, not backward to disturb balance, but inwardly to secure balance. Sporting News MLB Baseball CollectionBonds -stanceAs the coiled body awaits the incoming pitch, the hands and bat have moved to a position slightly beyond the back shoulder, facilitated by the lowering front shoulder and turning body. At the critical point, where the ball has been identified for its speed and/or specialized nuances, the body responds with the first wave of conscious forward movement, which occurs simultaneously in four distinct areas.

If all functions are intact, and the timing mechanism accurately assessed, the front foot plants firmly as its knee begins to straighten. The three other areas, acting synergistically, are the back bent knee, and the front and back shoulders.

As the front knee is straightening, the front hip is turning outwardly and backward, while the back knee is twisting forward and down, to assist the rapidly forward-turning back hip. The front shoulder begins its assault with an initial “shrug,” the purpose of which is multi-faceted: to stabilize and abruptly lift the shoulder, instigate the initial lowering of back shoulder and elbow, and provide momentum for initiating the complete turn of the upper body through the swing.

After the quick action of the “shrug,” the front shoulder continues on its route until its completion at the back end of the swing.DSC_0036 DSC_0120DSC_0122DSC_0128DSC_0129Mark McGwire 5Ted Williams' follow throughThe beauty of being aware of the four simultaneous steps is that any one of them can be the conscious stimulant to initiate the batter’s swing. It is impossible to think of all four at the same time—too complex an endeavor. But just knowing that they all occur at the same time allows the .400 hitter to focus on any one, which seems most suitable at the time, and receive a successful result.

Since the .400 hitter knows that every pitched ball is travelling in a descending line, or arc, his body mechanics instinctively facilitates the corresponding action of the bat to meet the ball on a line as close to 180 degrees as possible. The action described above (the four steps) allows the bat to begin flattening out automatically as the swing is initiated, and thus avoiding any time lapse that is induced by unnecessary conscious effort.

As the swing progresses, the diametrical shoulder slant assists the front arm’s straightening, and lowered back shoulder and bent elbow to drive the hands and bat to striking area. Once the “belly-button” faces the pitcher, the front elbow snaps its arm to extension while the back elbow starts its subsequent powerful extension, for the bat to contact the ball.

As the bat meets the ball, the shoulders remain the continuing power force that drives the arms and hands to direct the bat through the ball until the follow-through is complete. (If the fingers of the top hand were extended at the “contact” point, one would notice that the palm is facing upward, to assure that the wrists had not rolled over.)

The angle of the swing of the bat of the .400 hitter does not correspond with the parallel level of the playing field, but rather on a parallel line with the flight of the ball. Barry Bonds HRted-williams-science-of-hitting2Ted Williams - fundamentalsTedWilliamsShortSwing2 To swing the bat, on a parallel line with the field level, at a ball that is travelling downward from a height of 5 to 6 feet, would facilitate a hard ground ball in a majority of cases, if solid contact were made.

Because solid contact, 100% of the time, is improbable, you might be able detect, here, one of the flawed characteristics that makes for a .200 hitter. The most detrimental component to any aspiring .400 (or even .300) hitter is the erroneous theory that the batter should swing down on the ball. And the prospective .400 hitter who follows the sequence of body mechanics mentioned above will never swing down on the ball, unless he is ostensibly late with his timing, or if he prematurely rolls his wrists over the ball at contact!

Is there any chance that a batter will again hit .400 or better? There are many current players who are hitting .300 consistently. Anyone of them could be a .400 hitter, if he knew for sure that there was a legitimate way to become that Hero, without the prospect for also being a Goat. He has to be willing to try something different, even though it may not, at first, feel good.

Postscript: Aaron Judge could be the greatest hitter in Baseball history. He does everything correctly, except one thing. Since no one else seems capable and/or willing to advise him as to “what” that is, he will have to peruse my essays and figure it out for himself… or give me a call.


“Ultimate,” or Bust: “Electronic Strike-Zone” – By John F. Paciorek

For me, Baseball is the greatest sport to play, and watch. But it will never become the “Ultimate” in Sports entertainment until MLB finally gets rid of the last vestige of the agitating human vulnerability factor that denigrates the solemn integrity of the Game – “Umpire-Mortal-Incompetency. To err is human (and inescapable)! But, with access to technology that would correct human  Vulnerability to Err (especially in critical situations), and intentionally not use it, is simply “Asinine.”

From what I’ve observed in watching Baseball Games, I’m amazed at how well the persons umpiring games do observe and make the “calls” with a high degree of accuracy. Recently MLB has taken the “good-initiative” in installing the “instant-replay” video cameras that in most/all cases clarify a questionable circumstance and the umpire’s call regarding the incident. What a positive enhancement to the betterment of the Game! It surely beats the “human-factor” for “getting it right”!

Every single game I’ve watched during this recent Playoff-competition has had situations where the umpire’s judgment behind home-plate was a definite detriment to either the batter or the pitcher. Since players are being “extra patient and tolerant” to an umpire’s missed-call (for fear of possible ejection from the game), they seem to be expected (unfairly) to make up for “his human-error”(somehow). If it’s a called “third-strike” to a precisely attuned batter with a runner in scoring position, or a “ball-four” on a 3-2 count for the pitcher who can commonly “thread-a-needle,” the players’ credibility as well the team’s win or loss is at the discretion of human disparity.

It appears that most commentators have been advised by administrative authority not to point out any umpire error. But, some can’t help but comment when the umpire’s decision is so blatantly incorrect. And it is also obvious to the casual spectator (not always).

It is difficult for the avid sports fan to tolerate any incompetency occurring on the Baseball field, especially from “non-players” whose decisions can have a direct effect on the outcome of the game in which “they” vicariously want their home-team to win (by any and all fair-means). Even the most ardent fan will be at least appeased by a video-replay that validated an unfavorable outcome for his team. Nothing is more egregious to a fan than to detect that the umpire seems to be “guessing” on some of his calls, or a bit inconsistent in his perception.

You hear some commentators mention that even though “the pitch” was obviously “outside/inside” the strike-zone, at least the umpire has been consistent in calling that pitch. What consolation is that to a batter who has “fine-tuned” his visual-mechanics to respond consistently to the height, width, and depth of the pitched ball, or to a pitcher whose fingers, arm, shoulder, and body sensitivity to the precise fluidity of movement that would place the pitched ball where he intended? Should either of them be expected to change his own “model of excellence” to accommodate the mortal incompetency of flawed human frailty? NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!

No human-being (not even Ted Williams, with his incredible eyesight during his playing days, up to slightly beyond 40 years of age) would be able to be 100% accurate with calls behind the plate. Can you image the difficulty of persons over the ages of 50/60 in making accurate calls on 100 MPH fastballs, hard-sinking “splitters,” abruptly changing directions of curve and sliders? And in this modern era of catchers deliberately “framing” pitches with uncanny speed and deception, what human is capable of deducing the accuracy of the pitched ball with even approximate credibility?

Therefore, the only intelligent solution to this obvious conundrum is to install an “electronic ball and strike indicator,” and relieve the home-plate umpire of the “un-doable” task of accurately calling Balls and Strikes in a professional Baseball Game – especially during the most highly competitive venues of Playoff and World Series competition.

In every close game in this year’s Play-Offs, the outcome of those games could have been different if the human being making decisive calls on balls and strikes had been supplemented by the accurate accounting of an electronic indicator of strikes and balls. (I hope MLB is counting the times that the umpires’ calls have influenced an “at-bat” of a batter, or the effectiveness of the pitcher’s strategy.)

Just imagine how much less time would be wasted during any game when a batter or pitcher doesn’t have to suffer the “indignity” of justifiably getting upset with a “bad-call,” then subsequently be ejected from a game (then fined) because a “conscientious” human being had inadvertently made an incorrect decision based simply on “mortal-frailty.” The “solution” is readily at hand! MLB… – DO IT!

I want the skill of the players, teams, and managers to determine the outcome of the game I’m watching, not the haphazard “brilliance” or “guess-work” of a sporadically competent official. Until this is accomplished, Major-League Baseball will be elevated no higher than the plateau of merely the “Penultimate” level of entertainment excellence!

I have other suggestions that could be considered for other less important matters, but the above should be immediately endorsed and acted upon. Thank you. J.F. P.

P. S. Let’s see how much the World Series will be affected by “Human Error!” I can just imagine what kind of Strategy the “Vegas-Bookies” are mounting for this upcoming fiasco – Could be a new but subtle twist on events of 1919!?


October 15/1988 – Reminder to Dodgers – Kirk Gibson

In honor of Kirk Gibson’s Immortal “stroke of genius,” I wish to applaud once again a feat in Sports History that I don’t think will ever be duplicated, although some renowned sports writers would evaluate it as merely second or third on the list of memorable home runs ever hit.

As Kirk is currently experiencing some physical difficulties in 2017, I would hope the man who performed the miracle at the 1988 World Series could somehow disentangle himself from the “interlaced ambiguities of his being” and realize that it is natural for him only to feel good, to be well, and to experience perfect bodily conditions. 

I am again re-posting (from October 15, 2014) my account of Kirk’s Historic, monumental achievement for your reading pleasure.  ENJOY!

When classifying the “Greatest Home-Runs” in Baseball history, the closest that Kirk Gibson’s 1988 World Series “Bomb” ranks to the top of the analysts’ charts, even by MLB Productions, is 2nd or 3rd, behind Bill Mazeroski’s 1960 “Walk-off,” and/or Bobby Thompson’s 1951 “Shot Heard Round the World,” that gave the Giants the pennant.
Of course the main criteria for evaluating these enduring historical footnotes are still the reminiscence of “that” notorious City-Team rivalry and a purely “Under-Dog” sentimentality (Giants’ 15 games deficit before tying the Dodgers, then winning the pennant; and Pirates’ monstrous negative run-differential with the overwhelmingly favorite Yankees).
Now, if that criterion cannot be upgraded eventually by Time and Logistics, then a new category must be conceived in order to pay proper respect for what Kirk Gibson did in 1988 when single-handedly, but surreptitiously, leading the Dodgers to the World Series Title. (Space in this category would also have to be reserved for NFL Football’s 1972 “Immaculate- Reception,” which would probably rank 2nd as the “penultimate” contributor to those “Amazing” performances.)
In order to hit a single home run, so many aspects of a batter’s swing must be aligned to satisfy the anatomical, physiological, and psychological constituencies composing each player, as afforded haphazardly by the “gods of Baseball.” Most athletes, professional and amateur alike, who have legitimately tasted both the “thrill and agony” of most majors sports activities will usually attest to the validity of Ted Williams’ famous yet arguable statement that, “hitting a baseball is the single-most difficult skill to master in all of Sports.”
In an essay I wrote entitled, “Einstein and the Home-Run Principle,” Einstein supersedes the Williams’ statement when he parenthetically observes, “Hitting a Home-run is the most difficult thing to do in all of Sports.” To hit a home run, a batter has to be almost perfect in his application of the “the laws of physics” with regard to the mechanics of swinging a baseball bat with precision and power. To be a consistent home-run hitter the batter must also have an understanding of all the elements that are included in the dynamics of hitting a baseball effectively.

Theoretically, it is possible to hit a home run every time a batter swings at a baseball. However, Einstein and others have found through Quantum Mechanics, when trying to establish the essence of matter, that “at the fundamental levels, causation is a matter of statistical probabilities, not certainties.” Therefore, with all the elements and combinations of variables with which a batter has to deal, from within and from without himself, the “uncertainty principle” gives compelling testimony that mastering the “rubik’s cube” of hitting a home-run every time is highly improbable. However, the knowledge itself, of such feasibility, enhances the statistical probability of success.
Not even Albert Einstein and all the renowned physicists of his time, and “saber-metricians” of this modern-era, could have approximated the statistical improbability of what Gibson did on October 15, 1988.

The resounding joy that New Yorkers experienced in 1951 and preserved for decades was not altogether incalculable, since Bobby Thompson had not more than 3 days earlier lit up Ralph Branca with a Home Run that presented as an ominous note a precursor of what was to come. And Bill Mazeroski’s feat that ended the 1960 World Series, although dramatic, cannot have been totally unexpected. Pinch hitter, Hal Smith, had earlier hit a 3-run homer to stake the Pirates to a 2-run lead until the Yankees tied the game in the top of the ninth, thus extending the heart-pounding “see-saw” battle.

“Maz” was 1 for 3 as he led off the bottom of the ninth. Yankee pitcher, Ralph Terry, made the huge mistake of getting the pitch up to the short but powerfully built Pirate second base-man, who took advantage and slugged the ball over the brick wall 408 feet from Home Plate. It was truly a magnificent and endearing moment for the Pittsburgh community and all Baseball fans outside of the Bronx – worthy indeed of memorial status.

All that being said, encomiums to those two distinct episodes in Baseball lore should pale in comparison to the near “mythical” grandeur that highlighted the glorified instant of Gibson’s exalted “blast,” as well as propagated the ecstatic drama that preceded his culminating heroics.

Kirk’s advent into professional baseball is as mysterious as that of the legendary “Roy Hobbs,” without the tragic prelude. Upon completing a successful College football career, it was suggested that he not waste his athletic talent in the “off-season,” and play “a little” baseball for his Spartan baseball team at Michigan State University. In that first and only year of College baseball, he played so well (.390 B.A., 16 HRs. and 52 RBI in 48 games) as to warrant being picked in the first round of the 1978 MLB Draft by the Detroit Tigers. He was with the Tigers for 9 years, and was a key figure in attaining a World Series title in 1984.

After being determined as one of the ballplayers being “black-balled” by MLB Franchises in the notorious “Collusion Scandal” of 1987, he left the A.L. Tigers and in January  joined the Hapless Dodgers of the National League, whose dismal ‘87 season needed something of a “Hobbsian” spark to generate new life into a ball-club in disarray.
At Spring Training a few opportunities presented themselves early in Camp to set the stage for an immediate change of direction in Team attitude and focus. This would eventually lead the march to a much improved status and uncontested standing in the National League West to win the Division by 7 games.  Frivolity and practical jokes took a back seat to Kirk’s ultra-professional and business-like mentality, and the team flourished from beginning ‘till the season ended. His season ending stats earned him National League MVP honors while helping the Dodgers win 21 more games than the season before.

But it was his uncommon “personal-leadership” and otherwise intangible, undaunted presence that invoked the “mythical hero” image his teammates and adversaries had learned to admire and would attempt to emulate. In the NLCS, although injured, Kirk still performed heroically in clutch situations, and his timely home runs in the 4th and 5th games clinched the National League Pennant, and advanced the Dodgers into an improbable World Series entitlement.
Kirk purportedly had done all he could to get the Dodgers to that World Series, but “they” were presumably going to have to get to the “Promised Land” without him, for the injuries he incurred along the way were too severe for any “mortal” to overcome and give a last ditch effort. All the world would have accredited the Dodgers with a valiant effort for just making it to the “Final” Series. Everyone knew that even with Gibson, there was slim if any chance for them to beat the powerful  Oakland Athletics, whose superior arsenal of player personnel had amassed an incredible record of 104 wins to 58 losses. And even with Kirk’s Premier status with the “baseball gods,” the “Arrogant- As” knew that “one player does not a team make.”
With Gibson being an “absolute” scratch from the line-up (he wasn’t even at the pre-game introductions ceremony), the first game of the Series began unexpectedly with a first inning 2-run homer by Dodger, Mickey Hatcher. The “As” came back with 4 runs in the top of the 2nd,  and held a 2 run lead until the Dodgers scored again in the 6th. The game remained at 4 to 3, Oakland leading in the bottom of the 9th.
Throughout the game, there were brief TV glimpses of Kirk Gibson hobbling around in the dug-out as he was traversing the distance from the training room and back, trying to massage and loosen his painful joints and hamstrings. Ever-optimistic, Tommy Lasorda seemed to be coaxing his beleaguered star, to see if any type of “miracle” was in the offing. Vince Scully repeatedly commented that there was “absolutely” no chance of Gibson making an official appearance. With T.V. and radio broadcasts coming into the locker room, Gibson heard one of Scully’s commentaries as if providence were beckoning for him to consider an alternative thought. In sudden contemplation of all that was transpiring before him, Kirk realized an inexplicable surge of unwarranted confidence streaming through his consciousness. As in a biblical reference to Jacob wrestling with the “man” inside, Kirk’s vision of Princely accommodation could not be suppressed.

The decision was made; his mind was determined; “the die was cast”; but only the portentous action itself was forestalled. “Will I look like and be a fool? What in hell could I possibly do? I can’t even walk! What or Who do I think I am?” would have been the common queries instigated by mortal fear that must be wrested away from that mind intent on fulfilling a noble purpose.
After Dodger pitching blanked the Athletics in the top of the ninth, the otherwise stalwart performance of Oakland Pitcher, Dave Steward, ended when statistically prudent “As” manager, Tony LaRussa replaced his Starter with the League’s Premier “closer,” Dennis Eckersley.

It looked like a sure win for Oakland, since “Eck” was destined to face the bottom of the Dodger line-up (though somewhat of an ominous sign, in hind-sight). Eckersley got the first two outs in rapid succession, and was about to face a formidable, former teammate who was set to pinch-hit for the 8th batter in the line-up.
Meanwhile, in the Dodger dug-out, Lasorda learned that Gibson had begun a personalized mental and physical rehabilitation process, which immediately spurred Tommy’s ever-percolating mind to envision a preemptive scenario of his own. After appointing Mike Davis to pinch hit for Alfredo Griffin, he surreptitiously placed Dave Anderson in the on-deck circle, to make Eckersley and LaRussa think that they could afford to be a little cautious with Davis (a potential threat) and contemplate the “end” by pitching to the very weak-hitting Anderson.
All potentially constructive Dodger strategy lay in the proposition that Gibson regain a semblance of his former self. Yet, even if he could overcome the acute pain and obvious debility, what could he hope to achieve in this debilitative condition?  Bob Costas would later remark that while he was in the stairwell of the Dodger dug-out, he could hear the groaning, anguishing strokes of a batter  desperately trying to ready himself for one last at-bat, even “one last-swing,” while teammate Orel Hershiser was feeding baseballs onto the tee for Gibson’s convenience.

Although most of his teammates must have sensed the futility of Kirk’s somewhat contrived heroism, they probably also could not have expected anything less from “the man” who had proven himself so many times before. They all must have thought the “good-prospect” all but possible. However, their past experience would at least warrant a “statistically” derived-at chance of success. “YOU’VE GOT TO BELIEVE” would have been the genuine inspirational sentiment pouring into the ears of the players from the mouth and heart of Tommy Lasorda and the Great Dodger in the Sky.

Kirk is now sitting at the end of the dugout bench, fully dressed, and armed with helmet and “hickory,” speculating the purview the situation has presented. “I have inspiration and commitment to do something, but what, and how far can my own determination carry me? Will Davis get on base to set up my ‘grand entrance,’ and what emotion will the fans exude? And will it give me that final burst of adrenaline to be propelled to heights previously unknown?”
Gibson was afforded no additional time to mentally peruse the circumstances of the present situation, for Eckersley just walked Mike Davis. Taking a deep yet unstrained breath, Kirk’s electrifying and confident image popped onto the top step, then out of the dugout to the thunderous roar of the now ecstatic and frenzied crowd.
“That’s what I wanted to hear,” thought Gibson, as he must have restrained the urge to shed at least a tributary tear of ineffable joy he and his patrons could feel in this present moment of triumphal hope.  Lasorda’s unending chants of “new promise” inspired his Team and the Dodger Faithful to loftier heights of exaltation, as Kirk finished his preliminary swings. His slow, deliberate, but majestic walk to the plate must have been a nerve-wrenching ordeal for the Oakland pitcher, even though he exuded a confidence rather than impatience to get the game over.
One could only speculate as to what order of thoughts must have been aligning themselves in Gibson’s mind as his footsteps proceeded into that rarefied cubicle of variable distinction. Before assuming his characteristically “Spartan” batting-stance, his back cleat scratched the hardened dirt for a foothold to secure a base from which his afflicted body might launch its purposeful attack.

He was finally ready, and none too soon for the exasperated Eckersley, who let his arm commence with the business at hand, firing a blazing, side-arm, tailing fastball, for which Gibson must have felt a tad unprepared. All observers couldn’t help but notice the constrained, oblique wrenching, late response Gibson’s off-balanced body and bat conveyed as it almost completely missed the ball. The second pitch gave the same explicit message, and the fans as well as Eckersley himself must have sensed that “the Gibber” was no match for the “Eck.” Kirk was behind 0 and 2 in what seemed like a “heart-beat,” and Dennis was determined to finish him off on the next pitch.
Eckersley’s disdain for Gibson’s futile attempts was obvious as he was about to throw another fast ball, same speed, to the same spot (away). The fact that Kirk looked bad, but progressively better on each swing did not escape Eckersley discerning eye. Gibson knew that his body needed only a short quick turn, but even that was too slow to get his arms activated.

On that third fast-ball, Kirk was prepared to shorten the turn and throw his arms and hands more quickly. The result was a swing with little power, as his arms and hands were too far out in front and his wrists rolled over way too soon. He was grateful that he even made contact for an otherwise worthless dribbler that forced him to run toward first before the ball fortuitously struck the edge of the infield grass and abruptly darted foul, thus extending his at-bat. (That had to hurt!)

After his first pitch to Gibson, it became obvious to Eckersley, as well as the “brain-trusts” in both dugouts, that Kirk was not the optimum threat for which everyone fancifully hoped or cautiously suspected. But he was quickly portending to be a formidable adversary, even in his seemingly “powerless” condition. “Eck” recognized that with all the pitches Gibson was subtly calculating, making superficial contact with every one, it might only be a matter of time before he can put one in play, perhaps to the detriment of Oakland.

Therefore, he can’t let Davis steal second base. Before his second and third pitches he made 3 throws to keep Davis close. With 2 strikes on Gibson, the Dodgers might be desperate. His 4th pitch was a ball outside, going a little farther to see if Kirk would bite beyond the fringe. He didn’t. Since “Eck” didn’t throw over before the 4th pitch, Davis attempted a steal on the 5th. Gibson had his best swing yet, but fouled it back. Eckersley didn’t think Davis would steal on consecutive pitches, and he was correct, but threw “Ball 2” in the process.  Before his 7th pitch, he threw to first base again. But on the pitch to Gibson, the ball was further outside, and Davis successfully stole second base, much to the consternation of LaRussa, Eckersley, and the “As” dugout as the count rose to 3 and 2.

The situation had not developed the way Eckersley intended. Gibson’s impotent yet “frisky” at-bat posed a conundrum whose immediate solution never materialized. So there was only one direction in which to go!

As Dennis Eckersley was truly an adroit “student of the game,” he, like the many who had come before him, usually observed Warren Spawn’s masterful advice when administering to their trade: “It is the batter’s duty to have good timing and rhythm to perform effectively, while it is the pitcher’s duty to off-set that rhythm and timing with variable speeds and placement of pitches.”
As for Gibson the batter, he had neither rhythm nor timing when he first came to the plate. But through the course of his gauntlet-like “trial-by-pitch” he had developed both to a rather insignificant level. Now, it was thought by “Eck,” to end this dilemma. He knew what he had to do. He’d done it before, with great success. And he will do it, NOW!

The Game wasn’t necessarily on the line, if his strategy failed. Gibson would walk, and the Dodgers would still have a runner in scoring position, presenting merely a secondary condition that would quickly be dismissed. But “Eck” was confident, he could not fail. “This is absolutely the ‘last hand’.”

All the “Cards” being dealt, Eckersley landed (in Poker parlance) a 4th Ace, while Kirk had a pair of Jacks and the 7, 8, 9 of Clubs. Kirk could have kept the pair and thrown the other 3 away, but instead threw the Jack of Hearts, keeping its “Brother-in-Clubs.” The statistical probability for Eckersley’s success was astronomical! Kirk Gibson seemed to have been abandoned by the “gods” and his mythological legend was about to become irreparable.  The most he could hope for was simply a mimesis of that “Luis Gonzalez” swing, and flare a base hit that might tie the game. But in Eckersley’s mind, a game-ending out is all Gibson’s “gunna” get!

There’s the tying run on second base. Eckersley is in his “stretch.” The count is 3 and 2. “Eck” is about to deliver the most potent pitch in his repertoire. The Dodger dugout is ecstatic. Now, with the fleet-footed Davis in scoring position, a base-hit would tie the game, and that is all and the best they could expect from their forlorn hero. But Eckersley had other plans! And, what was Gibson himself thinking?

Just before Eckersley was to deliver his “secret” pitch, Kirk abruptly stepped out of the batter’s box, as if to regain his composure under this momentous circumstance. But, in that instant, a higher source seemed to beckon him to recall an otherwise innocuous fact that Kirk had read in a report prepared by an astute and meticulous “scout” (Mel Didier) before the playoffs began. After pondering the present situation, all statistical possibilities seemed to be aligned in a favorable position. And the curtain was about to fall with a dramatic conclusion on one of these conquering heroes, each with his own weapon of invincibility in hand (Reminiscent of the final poker-hand in the movie, “The Cincinnati Kid”). But which will project the image of “The Man”?

Kirk looked toward the mound, then stepped into the “Box,” knowing he had all the information he needed (his final card was dealt). But is his faith in his belief strong enough; and will his mind’s commitment to act unflinchingly, in spite of his apparent bodily condition, enable his warrior-heart? 55,000 spectators are about to find out as well.
Neither antagonist is smiling but each exudes an indefinable confidence, even while knowing well that “one will die today.”

Eckersley takes his stretch and prepares his “Load” for delivery. Gibson makes a final but ominous mental query designating his unquestioning tact as “the die is cast” once more, “Sure as I’m standing here, partner,  you’re going to throw me that ‘back-door’ slider, aren’t you?”

As the pitch leaves his hand, Eckersley recognizes the ball’s trajectory to be perfect, right where he wanted it. With all the pitches he had thrown, he knew Gibson would see the ball moving directly toward the outside. He also thought Gibson’s quick sense would assume that, since his side-armed fast ball “tails,” the pitch’s destination would obviously move farther outside for a ball. He was expecting Kirk to momentarily relax, and not have enough time to respond to the pitch’s abrupt deviation of speed and direction, until it was too late – The “Aces” were “face-up”!

“Sure enough,” realized Kirk, upon first glance! His “absolute faith,” and patience allowed him to wait. He’d not yet lifted his front foot as he did previously while expecting Eckersley’s fast ball. An extra nanosecond of Time was in his favor. “Now, all I have to do is get my timing right, to be able to explode at the precise moment!” In his extremely “closed-stance,” as he discerned the ball’s outside trajectory, he waited until he could detect its subtle and abrupt turn toward him. Then his front foot exaggerated its deliberate stride toward third base, as his body was “gathering” its forces to uncoil as his foot would plant into the ground.

Eckersley couldn’t help but notice that Gibson’s physical demeanor was uncommonly composed as he unobtrusively glided in the direction from which the ball was finally descending (as if he knew what was coming). “Eck” saw Kirk’s foot plant, his body uncoil, his arms extend, and in a final explosive lunge of shoulders, hands, and wrists, observed the bat contact the ball with an uncanny perfect synergy that launched the round projectile with improbable force in the direction from which it came.

With all spectators and both dugouts watching in apparent disbelief, the ball kept rising and carrying farther and farther in its ellipticity until it finally disappeared over the right-field wall, as Kirk’s final card resoundingly struck the table as a 10 of Clubs – and a “Straight Flush.”

Throughout the day not a hint of joy was expressive of the face of Kirk Gibson, only a stoic-facade hiding pain, disappointment, resentment, and disdain for his helpless and impotent condition. As the abrupt follow-through of his celestial swing of bat was completed, and he cautiously embarked on an unrehearsed, and as yet undefined, trek, an observer could detect a gradual change in facial disposition. The remorseful look of indifference was suddenly transformed into a heavily distinguishable canvas of ecstatic jubilation.

And in a moment of triumphant glory he pumped his bent right arm in successive punches along the side of his beleaguered body after the subjugated leather-bound projectile did indeed traverse the height of the outfield fence for an uncontested, historic “masterstroke” (Tour De Force) of amazing ramifications, the conclusion of which would be directly revealed.

The instant of evidentiary proof of Gibson’s success immediately transformed the hopeful yet solemnly-cautious dispositions of Dodger fans and Teammates (who hadn’t really believed in “Santa Clause”) into genuinely faith-filled followers who, at that “holy instant,” probably could have moved a mountain or two. The dug-out Dodgers were streaming out onto the field, arms flaying and voices shouting “Hallelujah” (from the roof-tops) to their “resurrected “messiah” as he buoyantly circumnavigated the bases in all but reconstructed, glorified form.

His amazing feat did provide a Home Run of incomparable distinction. And it did win that First Game of the “Series,” in abrupt and miraculous fashion. But the intangible essence of that single act of unfathomable “Heroism” also unlocked a momentarily imprisoned spirit of Team unity that suddenly “empowered” the Dodgers to claim the 1988 World Series Title, even without Kirk playing another moment of any of the remaining 4 games. Kirk Gibson’s Home Run was truly the “single-most amazing performance piece in Sports history.”

As unlikely as Kirk Gibson’s conquest was, at that momentous October event, what more climactic expression of exaltation could be spontaneously delivered than that spoken by Baseball’s “immortal bard,” Vin Scully, when he exclaimed, as Kirk was rounding the bases, “In a year that has been so ‘improbable,’ the ‘Impossible’ has occurred.” Truer words were never spoken. No one in the world could have expected Gibson’s humble yet triumphal salute, “I came; I saw; I conquered!” And for the last 29 years, legions of followers have echoed the words of another prominent and renowned sportscaster (Joe Buck) as he commented repeatedly, in breathless exuberance, “I DON’T BELIEVE WHAT I JUST SAW! I DON’T BELIEVE… WHAT I JUST SAW”! Nothing in Sports History can equate to Kirk Gibson’s “improbable” and “impossible” act of courage and accomplishment. The only historical event that would have shared in equipollence would have been “The Battle of Thermopylae,” if this Spartan warrior had been there to defeat the Persians.

“Penultimate” Expression of Baseball Perfection – Part 2

 PART 1 was written on June 21, 2015
Let me quickly tell you why 6 thru 10 came into my thought. 1 through 5 were obvious to me, and needed to be considered in order to “perfect” the Game. But as I may have mentioned before, not a day goes by when I don’t see some new dimension to an aspect of the Game that can be viewed in a “new light”. When I first started writing about batting and throwing, I thought I covered everything of substance. Then I would see it from another angle, and I would write from that standpoint, etc. etc. 6 thru 10 came about that way as well.
     6. 2nd & 3rd Basemen tap the “front” side of base to determine a “tag-out” (for fielder protection).
      7. Establishment of a D. R. (Designated Runner).
       8. Batters should get 2 strikes and 4 balls.
        9. No “intentional walk”. If at least 1 strike is not thrown to a batter, after four pitches he goes to 2nd. Base.
         10. A “D. R.” (Designated Runner) can also Pinch-Hit in the same game.
6. When I saw Andrelton Simmons slide so recklessly into 3rd. Base one game, and then at Home in another, I realized that he just doesn’t know how to slide safely (for himself and the fielder). Of course he suffered a “double-consequence” by not only hurting himself, but incurring the wrath of the other team’s pitcher “nailing” him with a fastball after both mishaps. When he slid into 3rd., the baseman was waiting with the ball (for a sure out). He slid so late, he drove his foot through the glove and hand of the defensive player so ferociously (unintentionally- I think) that he could have seriously damaged not only the other player but himself as well. I’ve seen similar plays at 2nd Base (and even at home), and I feel that, if nothing else, the fielder should be protected in the case of an “automatic” out. Similar “unwritten” rules apply on double – plays at Second-Base, and at First base, to try to protect the fielder. The “Tap-out” to which I’m referring would allow the fielder to get out of the way before the runner actually gets there. It’s an “automatic” out, so give the fielder the protection he deserves, especially from incompetent base-runners.
7. I listened one day to the MLB analysts discuss ways to enhance Offensive competency (allow for more “run-production”), and one of them casually mentioned the possibility of a “designated-runner” ( for a National League Pitcher, or even for any slow runner, late in the game). I thought that it was not a “bad idea”. But I knew that there would eventually be a D.H. in the N.L. But it could still be used for an “elder-statesman” D.H. type player. Anything to pick up the pace!
8. I absolutely hate to see a batter (especially a good hitter like Trout) take a first pitch fast-ball right down the middle, then eventually strike out on two “splitters” in the dirt. IF the batter only got 2 strikes, he’d be more apt to swing at the first strike. (talk about speeding up the game!) Any way, it wouldn’t hurt the batter, since 99.9999 % of the time he will foul off at least one pitch. 4 balls would stay the same, since no one likes to see a base-on-balls anyway.
9. I argued against the “Intentional walk” since Pitchers did it so many times to Barry Bonds. I would have been incensed if I paid $30 to $50 bucks to see Barry, Babe Ruth, Ted Williams bat, and all the pitchers would do is walk them intentionally. Bonds may have hit 100 Home Runs if the Pitchers were forced to pitch to him or he goes to 2nd base. 
10. In the Elementary School league in whicht I have coached, the administrators didn’t like to see “fringe” players “riding the pine” for most to the game, so rules have been established for such players to have more active responsibilities (like alternate innings in the field while batting in a line-up of 1 thru 12). Once the D.R. is established in MLB, I don’t see anything outrageous about such a player being allowed to “pinch-hit” in a manner found appropriate to league standards. Am I too far ahead of my Time on this one? Maybe Not!
What does your “heartfelt”, but creative instinct tell you about these (6 thru 10)? I always appreciate an astute, professional or non professional observation. Thanks. John P


Am I a Prophet, or was It Just Bound to Happen?

The Best! That They can Be? Mike Trout (smile)

Walk-Off H.R. 7/17/15 Unbelievable!

How could there be a greater looking Baseball Player than Mike Trout? Mike T.1

Not only does his face and body “talk-the-talk”, but already his ability and demeanor Mike T. (1)Mike T.7have proven, to even the most “cynical” of critics, that he is quite capable of ‘Walking-the- Walk”.  Mike Trout 5 There isn’t any thing on the baseball field, or any “playing field”B. URLACH1, that he isn’t capable of doing to the highest level of performance. The only aspect of his game that I (personally) wish that he would change is his penchant for sliding “head-first” into bases.Mike T.3 I say this for the “selfish” reason of my being deprived of seeing him play when he is on the “disabled list” with jammed or broken fingers, hands, arms, neck, or some other upper body injury that is sure to occur at some time or other.Mike T.13 I know he can slide feet first Mike T.10, so why not and lessen the Rays vs. Angelsinjury potential.

I wrote the preceding excerpt almost two years ago. Now…Mike Trout (smile)

My favorite player growing up was Mickey Mantle. The closest player to providing me with the same vicarious sense of camaraderie, as well as a desire to emulate his skills and demeanor is (I hope not “was”) Mike Trout.

I always thought that the Yankees would eventually acquire Trout because of the similar “charismatic” qualities they both emoted, as well as the unique skill-set that each possessed. I wonder if the aspirations for such an acquisition has suddenly subsided since Mike’s fateful and depressing mishap.

Did Mike somehow think that he alone was invulnerable to the grave dangers attached to the precarious, and ignorant penchant for sliding “face-first” into any of the four bases to which he undoubtedly had every right to abscond. I wish that I would have had access to his phone number and/or email so I could have intelligently, but forcefully convinced him of the total and complete “imbecility” of such a stupidly impractical, career threatening device for asserting an aggressive means of functionally participating in America’s greatest game.

On April 4th, 2014, I posted an essay entitled, The Most Inexcusable Act of Irresponsibility for Perpetuating Nothing of Substance. Here is an excerpt from that Post:

Baseball’s Biggest Star, Mike Trout, laced a low-liner passed the Mets short-stop into left-center field. Trout’s hustling attitude gave every indication that he was going for two bases. Running full speed, after rounding first, he sprinted to second and, as his custom was, he slid furiously into the base, “Head-First.” He was safe, for the outfielder’s frantic throw was far off the mark, but when Mike stood up he began shaking his right hand and wrist. As the instant replay showed, he slid so hard that he jammed his right wrist and hand into the bag as the momentum of his powerful body was carrying him over it. Needless to say, the Angels can ill-afford to lose their Star player, and Baseball would surely regret his brief or permanent absent from the Game.Rays vs. Angels

I don’t consider myself a prophet, but anyone could have predicted the inevitability of such a catastrophe in the making. Now we have to wait and see if he can regain his former status as Baseball’s “All-American” Baseball Idol.