Caught Looking: The J.D. Drew Fantasy Pitch Forum

Hi everybody, I’m J.D. Drew of the Boston Red Sox. I don’t care how old you are, how advanced your skill level is or whether you’re a man or a woman. We all dream about a pitcher tossing us that perfect pitch when the bat is in our hands. Sure, maybe it’s a naïve pipedream in our modern world, but I don’t think we should let the fantasy die.

I love hearing stories about other conquests at the plate. It’s heartening to hear from all my fans out there who, like me, appreciate plate discipline, even if it means watching flat sliders and grooved fastballs pass over home plate while standing in the batter’s box.

After all, our ability as human beings to exercise restraint is what separates us from the animals…or at least the Baltimore Orioles. They swing at everything.

I thought you might like to know that I filled in for a friend in an adult coed softball league a few weeks ago. I got five plate appearances in three innings (the game was called on account of darkness), drew five walks and scored five runs. I made sure the bat never left my side by using it as a makeshift cane to prop myself up like the Planters Peanut guy.

-Mary from Peabody

Wow, Mary, that’s pretty impressive. That story reminds me of something: in 2010, I actually took over 200 pitches in a row over the span of several weeks without swinging the bat once. Luckily, it was sometime in late April when Boston fans were pretty wrapped up with the Celtics and the Bruins. Otherwise, I’m sure there would have been a good deal of heckling and jeering. Of course, Jason Varitek hasn’t been able to look me in the face since.

My four-year-old just started playing tee-ball last month and I told him I’d buy him a Dairy Queen Blizzard if he didn’t swing the bat at all when it was his turn at the plate. After the first two or three minutes of gentle prodding and encouragement, all the parents got annoyed and started screaming and yelling at him to swing the bat, but he just kept his eye trained on me the whole time as I nodded my approval from the first-base line. Eventually the coach had to drag my son out of the batter’s box and sit him on the bench for the rest of the game. I let the air out of the guy’s tires on the way through the parking lot on our way home and my wife doesn’t give his wife the time of day when they run into each other at Hannaford.

-Tom from West Bridgewater

Tom, you did the right thing. I wish more parents had your courage. Just because a baseball is sitting fat on a tee at home plate doesn’t necessarily mean the batter should just take some haphazard swing—particularly if there is something like eight kids manning the infield like most tee-ball games I’ve seen. Rate stats like on-base percentage and slugging percentage have a way of regulating themselves to the player’s skill level over the course of a full season. Even in tee-ball. Especially in tee-ball.

My friends and I recently went to some batting cages off Route 1 for a bachelor party celebration and I saw this unbelievably fat pitch that immediately made me think of you. This thing came out of the machine so flat yet not too fast and not too slow. It was a perfect meatball. I lifted the bat slightly off my shoulder but I checked myself and let it pass unharmed.

-Brian from Malden

That’s the difference between you and me, Brian. You lifted your bat off your shoulder momentarily and thought about swinging. I would never show even the smallest level of interest in some medium-speed pitch coming out of a poorly calibrated machine at some amusement park. Awkward check swings are exponentially worse in batting cages. I wouldn’t touch one of those pitches if I was up there with Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s bat.

I played backyard wiffleball during a neighbor’s barbecue last weekend. The pitch movement on those things is crazy. Either the pitcher’s arm slot is some sort of strange sidearm motion that makes the ball dive unpredictably or the wind disturbs the path of the pitch, effectively ruining any chance of a fastball dividing the plate into two neat halves. I wasn’t about to take my chances looking foolish swinging one of those cheap, yellow plastic fungo-bat shaped contraptions they pass off as lumber in a game of wiffleball, so I told everybody I was too dizzy to play from all the beers that I had drank throughout the morning and early afternoon.

-Judy from Plympton

Actually, Judy, I really enjoy wiffleball because the bat is so light you can easily stand up there with the thing on your shoulder for hours on end without even breaking a sweat. Of course, the pitches you see probably wouldn’t be anything worth swinging at, anyway, but at least symbolically wiffleball can help promote good plate discipline.

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