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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Knuckling Under

I think I missed my calling. Sure, I enjoy my day job. And tinkering with standup comedy and writing a few hundred words a day are a lot of fun — it’s not keeping me in beer and Twinkies money, sadly, but I get a kick out of it. Still, I think my dream job passed me by.

I should have been a knuckleball pitcher.

The idea came to me a couple of nights ago, as I was watching the Sox’ own Tim Wakefield pitch. I’ve been a fan of Wake’s for most of his career, dating back to the late ’90s when we were both in Pittsburgh — him pitching and me… well, spending money on beer and Twinkies, mostly. I’m damned consistent with my priorities, yo.

On the night I watched, Wakefield didn’t fare so well. He gave up five hits and five runs — three earned — before coming out in the sixth inning. He even walked four batters; hardly a stellar pitching performance.

But you know what? You can’t blame the guy. He’s a knuckleball pitcher.

If it were any other sort of pitcher on the mound, you’d be justified in booing his candy-armed ass all the way to the bench. If David Wells or Matt Clement stepped up for the Sox and allowed five runs — and they do; dammit, do they ever — they’d hardly be pleased with the outcome. Questions would be asked. Uncomfortable, pointy questions with sharp edges and ominous undertones. Eyebrows might even be raised, or brows furrowed.

But Wakefield’s a knuckleballer. The bulk of his job description involves walking to the mound and throwing balls that go places even he can’t predict. Ask a flamethrowing fastballer where the next ball’s going to end up. He’ll say something like:

Hard and away, at the knees.

If the next pitch is too far outside, or too low, or right over the heart of the plate — I’m looking at you, Lenny DiNardo — then it’s back to the bullpen drawing board for more mechanics and practice. If the pitch really is low and away, great. See if the kid can do it under pressure a hundred times in a row in front of thirty thousand fans, with live batters, an aching shoulder, and an itchy jock strap. That’s baseball, for most pitchers.

But ask a knuckleballer where that next pitch is going to be. If he’s at all honest, he’ll tell you:

I dunno.

“Whatever happens after that is up to physics, gravity, and whichever god(s) the team’s pitching coach happens to worship.”

And he’s right. Could be low and away. Could be high and inside. Might hit the batter. Or the umpire. Or a kid in the third row. The knuckleballer’s job is simply to set the ball in motion, dancing unpredictably in the general direction of home plate. Whatever happens after that is up to physics, gravity, and whichever god(s) the team’s pitching coach happens to worship.

Now there’s a job for me.

Think about it. If you do just a tiny fraction of your job as a knuckleballer — that is, actually throw a knuckleball — you can make a compelling argument that whatever happens next is out of your hands. And mostly, all you have to throw is the one pitch. All the other pitchers are working their asses off, learning sliding-this and curve-that and screwy twisty dipsy-divy nonsense pitches. Meanwhile, you work less, pitch longer, and can’t be held responsible for most screwups.

It’s like a surgeon opening up a patient and saying, ‘Whatever happens, happens.‘ Or a cop climbing into the patrol car and claiming, ‘I got us this far; after this, it’s all fate.‘ What’s not to like?

Sadly, I’m several beer- and Twinkie-soaked years too late to consider a lucrative knuckleballing career at this point. The best I can manage is to capture the spirit of the knuckleball pitcher, and apply it to my own job. So if I get to my desk on Monday morning, and a power nap, a three-hour liquid lunch, or a trip to the nearest strip joint breaks out, then I guess it was just ‘in the cards’.

At a certain point, it’s all up to physics and gravity. And if that point also includes cold beers and a pastied pole dancer or two, what are you gonna do? It’s fate. You can’t argue with fate.

Permalink  |  1 Comment

One Response to “Knuckling Under”

  1. Hazel Hazel says:

    Kind of like the weatherman’s job…’yeah, looks like rain, but scattered. Some of you may see it, then again, maybe not.’

    I was a huge Wakefield fan back in his Pirate days too. I was so amazed at that knuckleball. I got to see him win a playoff game at good ol’ 3 Rivers about 50 years ago. Back when the Pirates actually won more games than they lost. Bonds played then too and probably pre-steroid since he always choked in the championship games, if I remember correctly.

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