All baseball positions are important. You can’t have a good pitcher without a good catcher. You can’t have a good catcher without a good 3rd baseman to catch the bullet to stop the steal. You can’t have a successful game without great defense. When it all comes together like a well-oiled machine, nothing is more fun to watch. Even if it’s not your team, you have to respect those well-oiled teams.
Let’s talk about pitchers. Nothing draws more attention and stress to the game of baseball than “the bump”…“the hill”…“the mound”. I must be one of those weird baseball moms that really enjoy waiting to see what both teams bring to the bump. Who’s going to bring the heat? Who’s going to bring movement? Who’s going to paint the corners?
I have such a deep respect for the kids that get up on the bump to do their best to find the strike zone for their team. It doesn’t matter if it’s my kid’s team or the opposing team. I sit back and I watch these kids try to put their best over the plate. All while the opposing teams are chanting…”Whoop there it is”….”I’m fired up! You fired up?”…or my least favorite “Pitchers rattled!” Add on to the chanting - the fans, coaches and teammates yelling…”Come on Jimmy, one more strike!”(Jimmy knows)….or “Just throw strikes” (as if he’s not trying)…”Calm down Jimmy. You got this.”….”Bring it down Jimmy.” (trust me, he’s trying) or my least favorite “Don’t lose him!” (Jimmy is now thinking - oh no…I might lose him.) With all this, these pitchers continue to take the mound. That’s baseball! You never know who’s going to be on or off any given day.
The beauty of the various types of pitchers is they aren’t all built alike and I love that. Your hardest throwing guru is not going to always find the strike zone. Your slowest throwing pitcher is sometimes going to be the saving grace that you didn’t know you had. This applies to both little league, travel ball, and the MLB.
If you are a Chicago White Sox fan you will know the name of former pitcher Mark Buehrle. Buehrle was with the White Sox from 2005-2011, then went on to play for the Miami Marlins in 2012, and wrapped up his career with the Toronto Blue Jays 2013-2015. He retired from the game in 2015. My family and I are big White Sox fans and even bigger fans of Buehrle. We watched the ceremony on June 24, 2017 when the White Sox retired Buehrle’s #56. It was a great ceremony with many touching moments about his character as a human being and as a player and teammate. As he was honored for his bigger achievements – threw a no-hitter 2007, perfect game in 2009, and a save in game 3 of the World Series – overall out of all that was mentioned, he was a grinder. He worked hard and used the talents he was given to the best of his ability and it paid off for him because someone believed in him.
During the retirement speeches it was Don Cooper, Buehrle’s pitching coach, that jumped out at me and has stuck with me ever since. Cooper has been a pitching coach for the Sox since 2002. Cooper had a lot of fond memories of Buehrle, but one thing he made clear was that he wasn’t the hardest throwing pitcher he’s ever had, but he knew how to use his gifts to his advantage. He was reliable and unflappable on the bump. Buehrle’s curveball was rated average by scouts. He was drafted in the 38th-round with his fastball clocking in the upper 80’s. He was actually cut from his high school’s sophomore baseball team. Yet this guy ended up playing 16 seasons in the MLB. That is pretty darn inspiring for any baseball player who thinks they don’t have what it takes because they don’t have quite the hardest fastball on the team.
Nothing makes my baseball mom heart fly like watching a kid pitching who’s never done it before, and he throws strikes! Recently I was at a tournament where the other team ran out of pitchers and they put in a kid who has never pitched before. He balked, he threw some wild pitches, and he didn’t know how to look back a runner. But he also threw some great strikes! A dad from his team told me he had never pitched before. I told him they just found a diamond in the rough that I think will do some great things for them. That kid ended up earning an MVP for that game. The crowd erupted in cheers for him. Just like the MLB, when the score is ridiculously lopsided and they know there is no coming back, they’ll throw in a non-pitcher, who plays some other position and hasn’t pitched since high school ball. I think it’s awesome watching these guys throw balls slower than my 15 year old and the batters swinging at them awkwardly because they can’t eye the pitch up. Or the batters hitting slow dribblers because they can’t quite get a piece of it. It is one of the rare, but joyful moments to see those big leaguers act like little boys rooting on the guy on the bump.
One thing to take away from the kids that take the mound, the hill, the bump…they are trying their best and sometimes you will see some pretty amazing things come out of these little ballers. One day, the kid you never saw coming turns into another Mark Buehrle.
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