Anyone can hit a fastball. Fastball hitters are a dime a dozen... well, they do get paid a bit more than that. Ok, "anyone" is probably a stretch as well, but I sense you see my momentum.
Since the dawn of time, kids have learned to play baseball and when they learned to pitch most of them were striving to throw the ball faster than the other kid could hit it. The kid who teams coveted was the one who could hit the fastest ball.
As the kids matured they were taught how to throw a curveball or 'breaking ball' of some kind. Screwballs and sliders were also taught. I hesitate to digress into spitters and knucklers, but there is nothing quite like the knuckleballer and the catcher who can handle him. With a veritable arsenal of pitches, batters were baffled by location, speed changes, and movement.
The evolution of the hitter was always slightly behind the pitcher, so the first kid to master the breaking ball was the MVP. The next MVP was usually the kid who could hit the breaking ball.
I won't be the first faux-genius to tell you that life imitates art, or in this case sport. If we were kids, we'd want the fastest and strongest. We aren't kids anymore and the appeal of the fastball, though not lost on us, has waned. We've watched as the guy who could handle any situation in High School, could date any girl he wanted, was the star athlete now asks if you want fries. Sure not all situations are so dire, but by and large, the heroes of the High School can't continue their legend after. Now the guy who had to work hard to ride the bench and progressively succeed, the one who had a chip on his shoulder, the one who watched the pitcher while others were at bat, his chances of success are better. He learned to hit the fastball by knowing when the pitcher might throw it. He also learned to hit the breaking ball by studying the throwing angle and hand position.
One of the best hitters of my lifetime was Tony Gwynn. He was called Captain Video as he often studied videos of his own swing as well as opposing pitchers. This gave him an edge. He made a habit of base hits between 3rd and shortstop, but he was always dangerous. While pitchers worried about guys like Barry Bonds and Jose Canseco, Gwynn went out and did his thing, building a lifetime average of .338. That's a little better than a hit on every third trip to the plate.
Some of my readers will think I've become a sports blog, but this my friends is a lesson on life, wrapped in pine tar. Do what you do, don't rest on your laurels, be in it for the long haul, don't search for accolades, be prepared...
Be a curveball hitter.
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