My God. I am so envious. So jealous. I feel like I'm casting a green glow for 100 yards.
I seethe. I writhe in covetousness.
Why? I read Bob Klapisch's article on Baseball Analysts today about pitching, and his fascination with pitchers, and his sort-of career as a semi-pro pitcher...I wonder if it's possible to puke from sheer desirousness.
Of course, there's always the caveat that, as Chuck Klosterman put it, "If there's anything veteran sportwriters hate, it's sports,"--that familiarity breeds contempt, that pro sportswriters who get to hobnob with the greats are hardly ever as impressed with their jobs as we, the peons, eventually are...
But God. To be able to write this:
One afternoon in 1997, I was sitting in the visitor's dugout during batting practice in Atlanta talking to Al Leiter about - what else, pitching - when he suddenly said, "Get a ball, let's see what you've got."
So there I am, playing catch with the then-Mets' ace, sweating through my street clothes trying to make my fastball run. For some stupid reason I wanted to impress him.
"Fucking Klap, give it up," is what I heard John Franco say through a smirk, while Leiter was busy analyzing my delivery. For one precious moment, he no longer saw me as a writer but as a fellow pitcher, although with his harsher scrutiny came a piercing blow to my ego.
"Your ball moves, but you need to throw it harder," Leiter said. "You have to get on top of the ball."
Leiter unleashed a cut-fastball the likes of which I had never seen or caught. He threw it so hard I heard the ball hiss, which was unsettling enough. Then it broke to my left, as if it'd been hijacked by a wind shear. Somehow, the pitch accelerated as it darted, which so completely overloaded the synapses of brain my glove never moved.
I just couldn't catch it.
"That's what I'm talking about," Leiter said matter-of-factly.
"That's what you throw in a game?" I said in disbelief.
"Not really. That was about 80 percent."
I share Klapisch's fascination with pitchers and pitching, you see, but not his thwarted aspirations. Thus for me a similar conversation would have been pure, unadulterated amazement rather than the torturous experience it seems to have been for Klapisch.
Just standing above the bullpens at Fenway, hearing the ball tear through the air out of the pitcher's--any pitcher's--hand is enough to turn my pupils fixed and dilated. Klapisch says that if he's ever eligible for the Make-a-Wish foundation, he wants the chance to pitch to A-Rod.
Me? I'd take what Klapisch already has.