Whether the sound is “Ping!” or “Crack!”, contact from a baseball bat on to a ball is where the action begins. Without it, nothing is going on other than a pitcher throwing to a catcher. It is the hardest thing to do in sport. Make contact on a round ball with a round weapon in less than half a freaking second. Pictures are better than words, here is a break down of the swing scientifically:
There ya have it. I couldn’t have broken it down better myself. It is a sweet science to behold. Like the quote in the graphic says, it is “clearly impossible.” I assure it is not. But it has to start somewhere and that somewhere is the stance. Each batter has their own unique batting stances. At point of contact, all batters (when doing it right), look the same. But how they get there is what’s great about it. There are certain characteristics at the foundation of a stance that will hold true. However, it is the natural skills of the batter that will ultimately determine how the stance forms. The stance can, and will, change. It won’t be things noticeable to the fan, until compared side-by-side. But, thanks to the scientic breakdown above, players must spend countless hours making the swing become natural. The timing, the positioning, everything has to become second nature because of the little time to react and hit a baseball. Below are some of the more recognizable stances in baseball:
The stance, though, is only the beginning. End of they day, you have to put the bat on the ball. Breaking down all-aspects of the swing would take too long and even start to bore me writing it. No, we are going to look at the one-on-one show down a batter goes throw facing a pitcher, and the clash of egos that ensues with each batter. It starts in the on-deck circle. You grab your helmet, bat, possibly some batting gloves, step out of the dug out, and head to the “circle.” Whether there is an actual circle to stand in or not, there is a general area where every batter can loosen up and prepare mentally for the upcoming at-bat. Standing in the on-deck circle, you really get a feel for the situation. You get away from your teammates and any other distractions going on. Each batter goes throw his own little routine in the box. Some will swing multiple bats while others will just use a donut (weight that can slide over the bat). Some will take full speed swings while other will just go throw the motions. Whatever gets each person ready is all that matters. But now it’s go time. Your mind is racing about the current situation. If it’s a big spot in the game, you have to get your nerves under control. You also can’t think about failure. Great baseball players fail 70% of time when they come to bat. But that is the last thing on your mind. It’s one of those realities that you block out when it’s your turn to bat. Why? Because in your mind, all you’re saying is “I’m gonna rip the shit out of this ball.”
You approach the batters box and, again, the customization continues. However you get settled into the box is up to you, but you have to feel comfortable. It’s important to make everything as natural as you can so all you have to worry about is reacting to the pitch. Once you settle in, it’s a waiting game. In all reality, it won’t be more than about ten seconds from the time you step in the box to the time the pitch has been thrown. But it lasts forever. The anticipation only adds to the pressure to focus solely on the upcoming pitch. You re-grip that bat a few times, maybe swing it back and forth, all the while telepathically telling the pitcher “Throw the damn ball already.” The pitcher receives your message and starts his wind-up. The moment grows larger and larger with every movement of the pitcher. Then the pitcher reaches his release point and your mind starts racing. You are trying to determine the spin on ball, and thus predicting where the ball will be when you are trying to make contact. The harder it’s thrown, the less time there is complete the process, equaling a smaller window of error that’s already way too small to begin with for someone who is supposed to be on offense. Shit this one is coming for my head!! You duck out the way and save your face. You brush yourself off and stare back at the pitcher. He’s staring right back at you. The egos take visual form on the field and you can watch them throwing alternating blows. Oh it’s epic.
Time for the next pitch, and the pitcher gets the batter to swing and miss. Another stare down commences. Now the egos have turned into giant middle fingers being shoved into each others face. With this next pitch, however, the pitcher makes a mistake. He tried to throw a curveball and it’s not curving. It’s just a floating, spinning, beach ball at this point. You lick your lips, knowing that the pitcher is done for. Your hands start to whip through and you make contact. You have made such perfect contact, that you can’t even feel the ball leaving the bat. The ball has a tight back spin on it as it continues to climb and travel farther and farther away from home plate. When you can’t feel the ball leaving the bat, you found the sweet spot. You know the ball is crushed. This is how you feel watching the ball fly over the fence:
Nothing like admiring your fine work with some serious swag (that Griffey Jr. guy did that pretty well). You start to trot down the first base line, and work your way around the bases. As you round third and finally cross home, you pound fists with your teammates on the way towards the dugout and take one more look back at the pitcher. You just want to send one more message to him, “Suck it.” Yeah, there are plenty of other times that won’t go your way. But that’s the nature of the game, and it’s only the times of success that need to be glorified. Everyone makes outs; few people drop bombs. There is nothing like blasting that pearly white over the fence. The only thing that tops this is the walk-off home run. It goes something like this:
Then you bounce around and celebrate the glorious victory. Oh happy day. Baseball is designed where the defence is in control and the offense has to be the one that reactionary. Because of this, it gives the offense that much more satisfaction when it triumphs. Making solid contact on a baseball is such a unique sports feeling. It takes thousands upon thousands of swings to get it right. But all those times in the batting cages hitting off of tees, soft toss, pitches from behind an L-screen (a protective screen in the shape of an L to keep pitchers from getting destroyed by line drives) and live batting practice on the field is worth it when you see that ball flying away. And if the pure satisfaction of achieving a goal through hard work isn’t enough, there is one more indisputable fact about hitting home-runs as well…