I was down in DC this weekend and took in the Sunday game. The Braves lost and that man there, Drew Storen, saved it with a 1-2-3 save. He’ll get many more. I have been a fan of his dad’s –for several years listening to his various radio shows. I was on the way out of the game in the 8th because I like to get over that bridge to Prince George’s County before the crush. When I realized that Big Chair’s son was warming, I swung by there and took a look.
This guy throws HARD. I was watching one or two pitches and thought, “that didn’t look all that hard, I thought this guy threw high 90′s?”. Then, as if he heard me thinking, he unloaded a 4 seamer and it just exploded late. Serious power pitching. I was impressed by the accuracy. He was hitting the glove in the pen like it was nothing. I know, I know, these are major leaguers and that’s what they do. It is just that until you sit there and really take it in, you don’t truly appreciate the ungodly speed and accuracy of a major league arm.
I emailed a quick report to the Big Chair and asked him at what age his son was when he knew he couldn’t catch him anymore for the pain and/or danger. He said at about age 17, a combo of the boy’s stuff and his declining eyesight, made it the stepping off point. Again, until you are up close, I don’t think you can appreciate the violence of that 5 and a half ounce sphere, coming in from 56 feet away at 96 mph. I wouldn’t want to catch it. Heck, I “girl-out” when my 11 year old nephew bounces a changeup under me! But of course, at 44, my knees hurt just looking at a guy crouch down.
All in all, it was fun. I don’t think people realize what a treat these new parks are with the pens available for all to see! In the old days at Shea Stadium, you couldn’t get close to the pens to see this. It’s one of the things that MLB has gotten right over the recent past. Steinbrenner’s ratcheting up of prices so that I can’t afford to take my kids to a game anymore? That’s something they have gotten wrong.
Here is a shot of his motion. I was struck by how little load up he puts into his torso. He lifts his leg and then comes to the plate. There isn’t a lot of loading torque or twisting. It’s a very simple, repeatable motion and the stride is longer than you think.
When I work with kids, I always think no matter what you have in mind for them, if the boy can’t repeat it consistently and easily, it’s not any good. Kids’ coaches tend to get grandiose plans going with kids and they don’t realize that repeatability is the name of the game. Pitching control is about repeatability. They also don’t realize that not all kids are the same! And that some kids can handle more twist and loading and others need to come straight to the target.
It was interesting to see the closer getting ready to come in. Normally, you are watching the game, but this time, I was interested in the pen and it was a neat perspective.
He was throwing but also not trying to throw too much. He would throw a couple and then crouch down and murmur to the pitching coach or vice versa. He would watch the game and try to anticipate the timing of when the inning would end. Then he’d throw another one and repeat the process.
You got the distinct impression that it’s nerve-wracking. The aspect of not knowing just exactly WHEN you will go in there but knowing that you have to be ready at that moment. He wandered around a bit. Had a glass or water. Crouched and watched the game some more. Threw a few pitches. Waited. Murmured. It was fascinating. It was also interesting that the mood in the pen was ALL business at that point. The legendary looseness of the pen is gone in the 8th and 9th. It’s as serious as a funeral at that moment, as you would expect.
Hey, next time you go to a game and it’s not exactly riveting, stroll down to the pen and watch the cadence. Interesting.
And yes, I got snarled in traffic and ended up crossing the Navy Yard bridge over the Anacosta on my way back to the Gaylord at National Harbor. I hate driving in DC and this is from someone who lives in Northern NJ, works in NYC and went to school in Boston. –Fog