Once a pitcher releases me from his grip, I’m at the mercy of the wind. I travel toward home plate – with as little spin as possible – and dance along the way, sometimes dropping to the dirt while other times cutting away from a batter.
Recently, I’ve been getting loads of attention thanks to New York Mets starter R.A. Dickey, who’s just 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA so far this season (both best in baseball), possibly on his way to starting the All-Star game. Clearly, I’m reliable.
While most pitchers want to dazzle the fans and scouts by lighting up the radar gun, I’m often considered a trick pitch, throw by players goofing around during warm-up tosses, but usually restricted from entering the serious field of play.
Sure, some pitchers have used me to achieve great success – including Phil Niekro, Hoyt Wilhelm and Tim Wakefield – but I’ve always been shunned by the majority of hurlers.
Since I’m not widely understood, let me briefly explain what it’s like to be me. Let’s take the other night in New York when Dickey threw his second consecutive one-hit shutout, becoming only the 10th player ever to achieve such a feat.
As I nestle against the leather of Dickey’s glove, he grabs me and I may as well repeat the two-word phrase of any mother who has just prepared a home-cooked feast: “Dig in.” The fingernails on Dickey’s index and middle fingers grasp my skin while the thumb and ring finger surround me.
Once Dickey is ready to release me in the air, he shoves me from his clasp and it’s takeoff time. My flight’s speed depends on Dickey’s arm motion and the force applied by his fingers on the runway; the other night, I traveled anywhere from the mid-60s to the low-80s, in terms of miles per hour, enjoying the view as I hovered toward home.
Most of the time, I landed safely in the catcher’s mitt, often in the strike zone. Due to my lack of rotation and spontaneous movement, some catchers struggle to snare me from the air, while allows me to roll around in the dirt and grass.
But once that fun is over, I’m back in the pitcher’s mitt feeling the force of his freshly trimmed fingernails, and the process starts all over again.