Floundering, caught in a statistical tailspin, unable to effectively put bat on ball and looking to recalibrate, I remember and resort to a fallback philosophy of hitting… patience. I vow to not swing at any first pitch, no matter how fat, juicy, and over the plate it may appear.
After the jump, zen and the art of stinking up the joint…
Though I sometimes guess the next incoming pitch (usually hoping for a fastball up in the zone), I will set that trick aside for now. No more coiling with anticipation if the edges of the strike zone flash red and the ugly yellow plate coverage indicator locks into place, signifying a correct prediction of speed and location.
Yes, I play with guess pitch on. It’s an unrealistic, slightly gamey mechanic, an Amazing Kreskin mini-game (although real life batters are indeed rewarded for anticipating pitch type and location correctly), but it’s as much hindrance as help, leading to over-commitment on correct guesses when really there’s no guarantee the pitch will actually land where the pitcher aimed it. It’s fun though, and I use it.
Pitch one, when ignored, is as often as not ball one. A blue circle paints the spot of its passage over the plate, the calm color almost congratulating me on my restraint (as opposed to the angry red of a strike, either taken or swung at).
Building on this patient approach, how about I not swing at anything until I take a first strike? Sounds good. Ball two follows. Ball three. Ball four, I take my base, achieving a temporary success state without a single input.
I spend a lot of time in Road to the Show intensely monitoring events without actually doing anything. I let pitches go by, waiting for one I can do something with. If I get on base, I watch the next at-bat from the basepaths, judging the speed and length of the pitcher’s windup. Can I steal on him? Sometimes I hold down a shoulder button to lean towards the next base when leading off, so that I might get an infinitesimally quicker start if the ball is hit in play, all the while focusing on the pitcher’s movements for any sign of a pickoff throw. Intense stuff. And after all that, my teammates’ long and drawn-out at-bats are often capped with a whimpering strike three and a deflated jog back to the dugout.
Baseball is inherently slow, peppered with moments of tension and intensity, but in the run-of-the-mill game modes in The Show your agency is constantly shifting to where the ball is when on defense, and on offense you can find yourself managing the actions of the batter and multiple baserunners simultaneously. Here, locked to a single player, it’s got more in common with my weekly softball games. There, I run out to left field, try and stay sharp. Maybe something happens that involves me, maybe not. Run back to the bench. No fast-forwarding to my career player’s next event.
A switch seems to flip after that first walk. I end up going three for five, including that elusive homerun management is again asking of me. I get the bat out early on a low fastball that goes way farther than it feels like it should and it’s gone, over the wall in left-center, some tightness in my chest momentarily unclenching as my avatar casually rounds the bases.
If only this had been a substantive breakthrough and not a mere blip. That home run meant that I just fulfilled three of my four advancement goals (I failed to knock in the eight measly RBIs over five series that they asked of me) and management once again spoke to my readiness for the bigs, if only it weren’t for that pesky 40-man roster currently being too full for my inclusion. I’m not sure how they can gloss over my struggles, though. My confidence is shot, I’m now hitting .240, and like a superstitious player who sets fire to some socks he deems unlucky, I’m searching round the edges for some fix… say, a new batting camera angle.
I can’t overcome it with sheer will. I’ll strive to be patient, present, and make sound decisions. Maybe one day soon I’ll have attained the points to out-level my surroundings here in Triple-A, but that feels far off.
If you find yourself on the New York City subway, keep an eye out for the guy playing a video game who looks like he’s not playing anything. I’m just waiting for my pitch.
Up next, fail state
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Seth Berkowitz is a film restorationist and musician living and working in New York City. He makes music with his wife and friends in the band Lucky Ghost, wakes up early to watch Japanese baseball, and is constantly reminding his cats to be patient because it’s not time to eat yet.