Monthly archives: August 2004
Confessions of an Amateur of Swing
Here is a translation into baseball, of a French essay, via Two Blowhards.
What I particularly appreciate in the batting act of the swing is this impression: to gradually become the instructor of the body of the pitcher.
At the beginning, it feels a little flat, difficult. It is not obvious how to activate "the right spot" on the first blow of the ball. I feel awkward, as if I did not have anything to grasp there. And then quickly, the small encouragements of my opponent (his choked sighs, his hands run through his hair) comfort me. I feel self-assured, willing to take walks.
I take my time, I vary the pleasures: my swing travels like adventures through the strike zone, from top to bottom, inside and out, pulling to left, fisting to right, small blows of the ball in each neighborhood, the bat kissing the ball, all that in the area of the strike zone, of course. One should not harm the intimacy of the young pitcher, settling immediately inside his strike zone. Extending would be impolite and that could be interpreted as disrespect. The charm would be broken.
I also like to vary my approach, without losing sight of the goal: the long swings and slow contacts, smooth and generous, suddenly replaced by feverish rotations, several loose tremors, then return to the lazy strokes. After some time (generally, up to 10 minutes of this small play), my opponent starts to lose the control of his body. Initially, light tremors begin on the level of the thighs, like small revolts. Often, it is at this time that it approaches one of its fingers, then reaching the wrists, then settles on the elbow. If this does not happen to him, I take the hand of authority to him (but carefully) by directing the ball where needed to create the desired effect. This gesture makes him understand that he can be cherished if he wishes it, that there is nothing to be afraid of from now on. When we find the release point, the fusion between us takes place.
At certain times, I escape, I escape from reality from the act. I find myself elsewhere, thinking of something else. Or rather, I do not think of myself any more as a private individual. The ball works like a small adventurous animal while my spirit is spread out and is spread in the blue light of a kind of batting nirvana over which a most serene calm reigns. But the least shiver, the least small cry, the least herky-jerking of my opponent awakens me suddenly. I find my spirits, I rediscover this pitcher's body which is offered to me.
Thus the at-bat can last a long moment. I think well of having extended the at-bat for nearly one hour, without leaving the batter's box, fouling off pitches like a discrete rain beating in rhythm on the panes of a window. Generally, one conceives the swing as preliminary. It is perhaps for that reason that I prefer to continue it until the end, by argumentativeness. Until the end, i.e. until my opponent cannot retain any more and finally yields the home run, although he did not expect it yet. This is what I wanted to say by presenting the image of the instructor. Little by little, the music even becomes more present, pressing. It invades all space, reality and imaginary, until it is not possible any more to be concealed with its power.
During all this time, I take guard not to neglect the other parts of his body. I cherish his overall size, his belly, the way his hands settle near his hips, how he lets them slip along the thighs. My eyes continue on, down the legs to the feet. Then I seize in my mind his rotator cuff with a delicate firmness, I fantasize of passing his labrum between my fingers, and I feel it begin to yield almost instantaneously. All these physical contacts allow me to return to the task, concretely, that it is a pitcher who is there in front of me, with the heat and the silk of his skin. A pitcher!
After a more or less long time, when the storm is ready to burst (not before), I start to focus in his strike zone. Previously, it has sometimes happened to me that I've swung surreptitiously before the pitch, to intimately match his hip rotation with my hip rotation, but without ever going further. And then I slip the bat onto the ball, easily now, since all the batting from this point is inflated with desire. Short swings, timid, preparatory entries. At this stage, my forearms are taken with a regular tremor, my fingers are activated without more any reserve on my bat. I know whereof I gained. Soon, I will enjoy.
What excites me more, it is when the at-bat cannot retained any more, when I place my hand on my bat, that my body by itself dares to exert a significant pressure in order to make sure that I will keep going. Its size twists, its chest is drawn up, its eyelids drop with a marvellous grace. And then it comes, I can feel it, I even taste it, I accompany the pitcher's release point as if I were a guide, an instructor in the cockpit of a plane. Lastly, after contact, my body rests, and I feel his whole body softening like butter between my hands, all of which comes on suddenly, as a great smile settles with the hollow of my face. It is like a relief.
I left it all to trust and am very happy. It may seem silly, but I have the impression of being a winner. I succeeded in becoming a master over the mysterious throwing machinery. I bored the intentions of my opponent, his delivery becoming entirely my own, until this small piece of me which is the ball seemed to become directed by my will. We have created--we have made--love.
Sail a full circle, and
Soon he'll go line his last
Run batted in.
Mariners drift back to
Teams that don't win.
Score Bard's blog: now verse than ever!
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