You Pitch How Fast?

Spring rolled in a little over a week ago.  This means that spring and summer sports are right around the corner.  If you know me or read my Generalizations column a month ago, you know that I play in a Wiffle Ball league.  I’ve been playing for the better part of a decade now and, barring life events, will be playing this upcoming season.  My team (shout out to the Westside Washout) has actually been ranked the last two seasons.  This is my go-to icebreaker and is rarely met without question.  People mainly know wiffle ball as that backyard sport you played when you couldn’t get enough people for baseball or when little league was over.  I would bet that most families have the trademark bat and ball in their garage, scattered among clutter, cobwebs, and rust.  They couldn’t imagine an organized league, let alone a fiercely competitive one.  I’m going to dispel the main myth about the sport of Wiffle Ball.  Maybe I’ll even convince some of you to start or join a league by the end of this.

I started playing Wiffle Ball competitively in the summer of 2007, after stumbling upon a league that happened to play in Wilkes Barre.  They played in an old minor league field.  The base paths were 45 feet, the fences between 90 to 110 feet, and mound-to-plate was about 45 feet.  Because of mound distance, I (as well as the rest of the team) assumed the fastest pitchers threw about 60 mph.  Six years later our captain, Beau Reznak, was in the process of starting a league.  This league was set to have a speed limit around 60-65 mph.  Beau and his dad, Bill, purchased a radar gun.  From there myself, Beau, and our anchor pitcher Dan Rish had the daunting task of throwing as hard as we could at the person holding the radar gun.  Most pitches clocked in around the high 60s-low 70s.

That may not seem too crazy, but I haven’t begun to talk about movement.  The holes on top of the ball allow for some crazy pitches.  A good pitcher knows where the holes need to be as well as their arm/wrist movement at the moment of release.  For example, holding the ball upside down and throwing sidearm with a flick of the wrist will cause the ball to rise.  This pitch is aptly called a “Riser.”  Holding the ball right side up, unobstructing the holes with a flick of the wrist will cause it to sink.  The best pitchers combine speed with movement, embarrassing anyone brazen enough to step to the plate with confidence.  Some risers will start at ankle level and end at your face.  Some sinkers will start above your head and end at your knees.  Some pitches will be traveling at your face before curving outside for a strike and some will be so far outside that you’ll kick yourself for standing there as it slides inside.  Most leagues also allow for scuffing balls.  Scuffing is when you grind the new off the ball by either scraping it off concrete or using sandpaper.  It allows for more violent movement.  Combine this with a 45 foot mound distance and speeds up to the low 70s and you have an untouchable cocktail.  A pitcher that, even if you can read the pitch, will leave you feeling like there’s a hole in your plastic bat.  Against the best pitchers, I’ll decide at what pitches to swing at while I’m on deck.

In some ways, Wiffle Ball is the closest thing to Backyard Baseball video games in real life.  A perfect mix of fun and absurdity.  If you have a ball or want to buy one, I’d highly recommend scuffing it up and seeing what happens.  And don’t be embarrassed if your first pitch is a worm-killer.  There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on how to pitch wiffle balls.  But instead I leave you with our league’s feature film, WiffleBall Club.

Link to our Wiffle Ball league is here: http://leaguelineup.com/welcome.asp?url=srlwiffle

A Quick Adventure To The Grand Canyon.

Yesterday Danielle and I went to Pine Creek Gorge, about 2.5 hours away from Wilkes-Barre.  It is sometimes referred to as “The Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania” although it isn’t as in-your-face majestic as its desert counterpart. To get there you have to take back roads that snake along turquoise streams and rivers, freshly threshed corn fields and various spores of unpolluted towns.  We finally get there, hoping to find a road that will take us to a lookout point, only to find that we inadvertently drove to the bottom of the canyon.  We see a sign advertising CANYON VIEW with another sign juxtaposed saying Private Property: Violators will be Prosecuted, Mauled, Quartered, Halved and Wholed.

Annoyed but undeterred we reset the GPS, which is now freely giving us a roundabout way to get there.  We drive through a desolate state park where everything is called Happy Acres.  The only residents of which can be found at the shooting range down the road.  A couple rusty metal bridges later and we’re back on what appears to be a main road, slowly weaving our way up the mountainside past melting lakes and stillborn trees.  The route becomes more indirect, leading us to dirt roads that apparate before our eyes.  I wonder how anybody found anything before the invention of turn-by-turn direction.  Hilly corn fields begin overtaking the trees.  Before long all you can see is blue sky and yellow ground.  It almost feels like it’s the end boundary in a video game.  If you tried to walk toward it you’d hit a wall or a warning saying Turn Back!

We finally reach the lookout point.  It’s cool to see blueprints, fossils of the last ice age.  At least that’s how I imagine the canyon got here.  There are steps that lead down, enabling multiple perspectives of the canyon so you can get multiple pictures to eventually filter the natural out of.  At this height, the tiny specks you normally see from the ground take shape of massive hawks, gliding along a gust.  Up here, we also saw what we believe to be turkey vultures or some other kind of red-headed bird of prey/convenience.

I pose so Danielle can take a picture, me chilling on the railing in the foreground, a precarious drop and bumpy landscape in the back.  While she is doing this, I hear the sound of settling in a tree.  I turn around and, about fifty feet away, perched in a tree, is a Bald Eagle.

AMerica

I’ve never seen one in the wild before.  It just sits there.  I project a smug aura onto the bird.  He’s a maverick; unbranded, untouched.  He perches in this tree for about ten to fifteen seconds and then he leaps out, stretches his wings, and takes off.  A few moments later, two vultures flock by in the opposite direction of the eagle.  They settle on a rock.  Defeated, I imagine.  Danielle and I head back to the car.

A Theory on Jurassic World

Jurassic World comes out in a little less than three months.  I. Love. Jurassic Park.  It was the first movie I saw in theatres, according to my parents.  I can’t figure out why my parents took a one-two year old to the movies.  Anyway, when The Lost World came out I tried collecting the watches that they were selling at Burger King. I got three of them.  I can still vaguely recall the commercial for it.  It was so sick.  I was also there for the bad times.  I wept when the Spinosaurus killed the (presumably) last T-Rex on Isla Sorna in some power play to let everyone know the times were changing.  I looked on in confusion when Dr. Grant was apparently hypnotized by the Velociraptors he was so adamant about in the beginning of the film.  Now a new film in the franchise emerges and the response is mixed.  But I don’t want to talk about my early thoughts on the new movie.  I want to give my prediction of how the movie is going to start.

Continue reading

The Five People You Meet at A Poetry Reading (Number 4 Will Actually Kill You!)

About three years ago, I was introduced to the art of writing poetry.  In those three years I have read my work aloud three times. Twice for a contest at school and once for an art show.  At these readings, the faces were different but the tropes (more or less) stayed the same.  Here are the five people you’ll meet at an amateur poetry reading. Continue reading

An Observation From the Truck

When I was sixteen, I landed my first job with the Department of Public Works.  In layman terms, I was a Garbage Man. For three summers I would sling trash in the summer streets and, honestly, it wasn’t horrible.  There are some things about the life people don’t recognize and there is one I don’t think too many people know about.

In my town, there are three zones defined by town borders and busy streets.  Early in the week the DPW would do recycling runs; A zone each day.  I didn’t have my driver’s license yet so they stuck me and another kid to do the runs since it took all day.  It was monotonous but pretty easy work.  After a while, recycling would teach you lessons about social stratification.  The wealthier neighborhoods had a tendency to have more brand name items in it while poorer neighborhoods had off brand.  When we started picking up cardboard with recycling in 2011, the wealthier neighborhoods had more boxes to throw away because (I assume) they bought more.

Recycling also made me an armchair psychoanalyst.  I can vividly recall this one house in the western side of town.  This lady’s (sexist) recycling always had cans of cat food in it.  Every single week, fresh flies would feast and breed on the leftover food her cats wouldn’t eat.  And every week I would get a whiff of the foulest smelling recycling in town.  It was, admittedly, amusing.  Recently, it was theorized she may feed stray cats.

Some houses were not always amusing. Every week there were houses whose recycling only contained beer bottles and cans.  Whatever they didn’t finish would drip to the bottom of the bin and leave that unmistakable rotten, skunky scent.  I’m sure some of those houses were party houses and we only saw the remnants.  Unfortunately, not all of them could be.  I never got a look at the people I took recycling from so I couldn’t confirm if the house was full of college kids or children.

I will admit it’s difficult to make any analysis without seeing the people you are analyzing.  That being said, I believe you can read people by what they throw away.