It’s Friday night and I’m standing in left-center at Teufel Field. It’s the bottom of the first inning and there are runners on first and second with one out and the fourth hitter for the opposing team is at the plate with a 1-1 count (thank you, speed up rules). Our pitcher sets on the mound, rears his arm back, and arcs the ball towards home plate. The batter swings and sends a sinking line drive in my direction, slightly to my left. Eyes squinted in the less-than-idea lighting, I sprint towards the ball charging forward, sliding at the last second, securing the second out before popping up and trying (and failing) to double up the runner at second. This play could’ve happened at least three times in the amount of time it took me to write this and for you to read it. The game is fast, and that’s just slow-pitch softball. On Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium, I got even more education on the speed of the game.
For the first time, I sat in the Legends seats–Section 14B, Row 2. As someone who played ball growing up and has watched and attended countless games, viewed from all over various in-stadium locations, I certainly knew how quick the game could be, but being so close hammered the point home (rudely at times, like Abraham Almonte’s screaming foul liner that buzzed our collective tower). From Didi Gregorius’s speed to the velocity of the pitches delivered by Luis Severino, Danny Salazar, Dellin Betances, and Andrew Miller, “fast” was the best way to describe yesterday.
With regards to that ‘micro-level’ speed, sitting so close to the action only furthered my appreciation for just how incredibly difficult baseball can be. The way hitters can react quickly enough to not just hit the ball, but hit it with authority, driving it all over the place, never ceases to amaze me. The way infielders can react to sharp ground balls and calmly field them is a near marvel; that they can seemingly flick their wrists and throw the ball harder than I could overhand is another feat that leaves me speechless. Because the players aren’t zooming around the field like they would be in basketball, hockey, soccer, or football, we don’t necessarily think of baseball as a speed sport, but it is unavoidably so.
On the ‘macro-level’ of speed, there was the pregame ceremony for Jorge Posada. As I watched him receive his plaques and gifts, I couldn’t believe almost four calendar years have passed since Jorge suited up for the Yankees. While his former teammates lined the infield grass, I remembered playing Wiffle Ball with friends in my front yard, imitating the batting stances of the men I was looking at–Derek Jeter, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Posada himself… Obviously, many years have passed since then, but the memory didn’t–and still doesn’t–seem all that distant. Like the thrown and batted balls, like the lighting-fast pitches, the memories of players passed reminds us that the game moves quickly no matter how you look at it. We could all do well to slow down and appreciate it, from the tiny bursts of speed on the basepaths, to the (hopefully) magnificent careers blossoming in front of us.