Thursday, April 21, 2011

Machine pitch

I'm of the opinion that baseball is the hardest sport to master. To wit, how many teenagers play in the major leagues versus how many teenagers play in the elite divisions of say football (soccer) or basketball? It's exceptionally rare for a teenager to make the majors, while Lionel Messi at age 23 is widely regarded as the best footballer in the world and made his first team debut for Barcelona at age 16.

Why do I bring this up? Because Junkie Boy played in his first ever baseball game last night. He's six. It's his first season--he never played T-ball. Neither did most of the other kids. Which made for some fine entertainment. For instance:
  • In his first at-bat, he made contact, the ball rolled a few inches in front of home plate, and he stood there and watched it before finally realizing that all the people yelling "run" were talking to him. He carried his bat to first base with him.
  • In his second at-bat, he made contact again, this time remembering to run with much less encouragement. He advanced to second where he proceeded to look at the ground while another teammate got a hit. He again realized the people yelling "run" were talking to him just before his teammate reached second base. He still made it safely to third. TheZeph asked if I needed oxygen from yelling.
  • From third base, his next teammate up also got a hit*, and JunkieBoy ran, but he ran to the opponents' dugout instead of to home plate. I yelled to him to "touch the plate." He began looking around for something with food on it and for some reason thought that if he started climbing the chain link fence forming the backstop, he might find it. With only a moderate amount of encouragement and pointing, he realized what we meant and still managed to step on home plate before being tagged out.
*"Hit" in this sense is a term we'll define loosely as any situation in which the batter puts the ball in play and reaches base, whether he reached base on what should be scored as a hit or as a result of a fielding error. Considering maybe 10% of the balls that were struck left the infield, you be the judge regarding the portion of these instances that were errors rather than hits. Thankfully, we don't track errors in machine pitch.

Clearly some of the kids on the team have had more exposure to baseball than others. Thankfully for the egos of kids and dads alike, it doesn't seem to make a difference. Just because one kid can throw doesn't mean the teammate he's throwing it to can catch. Likewise, even if the kid can catch, it's tough to catch a ball that lands in the dirt well out of reach.

Machine pitch plus five strikes makes strikeouts surprisingly rare, so even though the kids all suck, the degree to which the competition sucks somehow makes each of them walk away feeling like Henry Freakin' Aaron. And since the failure to advance bases or run home still resulted in a 2 for 2 night with a run scored, how can you dispute the kid leaving the game thinking he would be the envy of anyone's fantasy team?


  1. Awesome! Sounds like a good time. I miss baseball. Have a good time at White Rim tomorrow.

  2. Good stories.

    I submit that golf is more difficult to master.

  3. Last year was my son's first year in the machine pitch league. As the year went on, the level of play got better. There were ven a few ground balls that were scooped up, thrown to first, and caught before the runner made it to first.

    The best part about the league is that the kids are learning the game, and getting a chance to hit a moving ball. I swear, T-ball set my son back a year.

  4. I just "joined" a softball team that is sponsored by my employer. If you want a replay of what's been described, by all means, holler. I'll let you know when I play.