Tuesday, August 4, 2009

How I discovered that I could throw a knuckleball for a strike

Two nights ago, my friend Brent suggested getting tickets to tonight's Brooklyn Cyclones game because of a Darryl Strawberry bobblehead giveaway.

Being me, I said yes, because, hey, it's baseball and an excuse not to do more important things.

We took the long D train ride all the way down to Coney Island, headed over to Keyspan Park and sat through the first couple of innings of Short Season A ball.

Let me tell you, in that first inning, the Cyclones played both like an affiliate of the New York Mets and like a class A team.

After a while, we got a little tired, not so much of the game itself, but the summer camp sitting next to us. Lots of kids. Lots of very, very LOUD kids. So we decided to get up and walk around.

The cool thing about Keyspan Park is that part of the park--or at least part of it accessible via the same ramp that leads to the bleachers--is a separate turf field. It's got two soccer goals and a home plate and mound area, still outlined in chalk.

So Brent, who came prepared with a glove and a baseball, and I did the only thing one could possibly do in those circumstances: We took turns pitching and catching.

I tried every grip I knew: two-seamer, curveball and knuckleball. The only one that was a strike on a consistent basis was the knuckleball, but don't let me fool you. The fastest I've ever thrown a pitch is 30 MPH, and even pitching from a flat mound that was probably closer to 50 feet from home plate than 60 feet 6 inches, there were quite a few pitches that came, well, uh, short.

My pitching form is only slightly less embarrassing than my batting stance, which really doesn't say much...

In other words, please, please, please don't ask me to throw out the first pitch any time soon...

At any rate, we stayed there, switching on and off for about an hour.

My one, real shining moment came when Brent was attempting a side-arm delivery. After quite a few pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone, I was sort of joking, sort of not when I blurted, "you're throwing across your body too much. More arm, less body."

Strangely, the advice worked--the next three throws were all strikes.

Still, on that field I realized something: this is something every minor league park should have. While it would be unfeasible for a major league park to do so, the idea that one can go immediately from watching a game, to playing it, to watching again tugs at the very heartstrings of what this game is about.

After darkness fell and it became impractical to continue, Brent and I ended up exiting the ballpark to take in some delights of the Coney Island pier at night.

Oh, and for what it's worth, some dude on the Hudson Valley Renegades hit a home run that took out the video board in left field.