The vi­o­lence of throw­ing a soft­ball

The Compass - - SPORTS - Nicholas Mercer Nicholas Mercer is a re­porter/pho­tog­ra­pher with The Com­pass. He lives in Bay Roberts and can be reached at nmercer@cb­n­com­

See­ing high-level fast­pitch soft­ball play out on a com­puter screen over a we­b­cast doesn’t do the game jus­tice.

Nor does it al­low the av­er­age fan to ap­pre­ci­ate just what goes into throw­ing the soft­ball very hard at the plate.

When you’re watch­ing the game 20-feet from the pitch­ing rub­ber, it’s easy to see the we­b­cast sells the act in­cred­i­bly short.

A hush falls over the crowd as the pitcher takes his signs from the catcher. They’re count­ing on see­ing some­thing great with ev­ery pitch. That sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion only height­ens when the pitcher rocks back be­fore leap­ing to­wards the plate and un­coil­ing a ball that travels at un­godly speeds.

That’s fol­lowed by an equally dis­turb­ing crack of the catcher’s mitt.

The unini­ti­ated — or some­one who spent the bet­ter part of their life mar­veling at base­ball pitch­ers — just aren’t pre­pared for what it looks like up close.

It’s all vi­o­lence. Pitch­ing in base­ball is tame by com­par­i­son. Now, that’s not speak­ing ill of throw­ing the ball hard.

That’s not what this is about.

In­stead, look at the me­chan­ics of both acts. In base­ball, the de­liv­ery of the ball to the plate is smooth and fluid.

The very best make it seem ef­fort­less to throw the ball. They’re balanced as they deal mid-90s fast­balls all over the strike zone.

Soft­ball, on the other hand, masks its tech­nique. The sheer com­bat­ive­ness that goes with throw­ing the ball com­pletely con­ceals the tech­ni­cal beauty of ev­ery pitch.

The flu­id­ity and pitch­ing mastery is there, but on the sur­face the vi­o­lence be­hind each ball hurled to­ward the back­stop is as­tound­ing.

Pic­ture a me­dieval cat­a­pult wait­ing to launch a boul­der at some cas­tle wall. A sim­ple pull of a lever un­leashes de­struc­tion upon its en­e­mies.

That cat­a­clysmic power di­rected at the hit­ter can only come from some­one who is in com­plete con­trol of the body.

It doesn’t hap­pen by ac­ci­dent, or with­out an in­nate un­der­stand­ing of how to stay balanced while throw­ing the ball like a nu­clear war­head de­signed to oblit­er­ate the op­po­si­tion.

The ones that are good at it are the best for a rea­son.

To be hon­est, I never truly ap­pre­ci­ated what goes into throw­ing soft­balls hard. I knew it was tough to hit, but I was sur­prised by the vi­o­lence of it.

Re­ally, it’s some­thing to wit­ness. The gen­tle rock, the leap and the fly­ing dirt comes first. Then, like the re­lease of a trig­ger, the pitcher’s arm whirls 360 de­grees and fires the ball at an as­tound­ing speed.

To be hon­est, I fell for the hit­ters.

It’s all vi­o­lence. Pitch­ing in base­ball is tame by com­par­i­son.

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