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Pitching


or

The Substitute

I live in a cave-like apartment under the Idler’s Inn, a dive tavern in a backwater village known for its antique shops and the occasional flooding of the river that snakes through town.

The floor above me rattles with pounding pool cues and garrulous booted feet, fragments of jukebox basslines and beery hoots and smoky hollers. I wear earplugs but they only seem to trap the noise inside my head. They let the noise in but they don’t let it out.

I am a librarian by trade, a substitute reference librarian for the Klahaya County Rural Library District. I travel from town to town throughout the county, filling in for librarians who have fallen ill or are required to attend conferences or meetings or are simply playing hooky as even librarians do from time to time. We librarians deal in facts, investigating the relevant print and online sources, as well as the inner crevices of our own befuddled brains, and doling out rough hewn chunks of information on demand to lost souls at the reference desk.

As a substitute, I have plenty of time for diversions and at present my diversion of choice is pitching.

As it happens, my apartment is laid out in a shotgun fashion. Entering the front door from the alley behind the Idler’s Inn, you step into the laundry room, a small windowless parlor of whitewashed cement. Next, you step through a doorway into the living room, also windowless, a carpeted space with a wall extending from the left, halfway across the room between it and the kitchen. The kitchen is characterized by yellow linoleum of a 1970s vintage. There are no windows. Hugging the wall to your right and continuing through the kitchen, you arrive at a doorway into a long narrow hall. It is this doorway which presents one of the chief hazards for pitching – but more on that in a moment.

Fortunately for the pitcher, there are no windows in the hallway. The hallway spans the remaining length of the apartment, passing the windowless bathroom and the windowless master bedroom and terminating in the windowless guestroom. Off of the guestroom is another doorway into a massive dark windowless storage room. From within the storage room, a secret unlit and very narrow passageway leads along the very back of the apartment, behind the guestroom and back around behind the wall opposite that of the hallway.

I have on occasion employed a flashlight to explore this passageway. The darkest part is at the very end of the apartment. At this point you are actually standing under the sidewalk which passes the entrance to the Idler’s Inn. (It occurs to me that I could market this as the Klahaya underground tour and sell tickets to the folks that flock into town every weekend to shop for antiques.) As you round the corner and head back towards the other end of the apartment, however, you step into an ambient light filtering through the wallboards from the antique shop next door. In places, you can actually peer through the cracks and spy on customers. At one point, there is even a spy hole which a former resident apparently drilled, but it is obstructed on the other side by an antique Coca Cola sign. (One afternoon I casually entered the shop, found my way to the bargain basement area, and moved the sign. But the next day it was back in its place.) Eventually the secret passage ends at a door which opens into the laundry room all glistening in whitewashed cement, and you are back where you started.

But I have strayed from the subject of pitching.

Suppose you were to stand with your back against the wall of the guestroom at the back end of my apartment. Now suppose further that your foot is exactly one foot long, as mine is. Walk heel-toe out of the guestroom, down the hallway, through the kitchen, and when you reach sixty and one half feet you will be standing in the middle of my living room. This corresponds nicely with the major league rule (and you can verify this by calling up your local librarian) which states:

The pitcher’s plate shall be a rectangular slab of whitened rubber, 24 inches by 6 inches. It shall be set in the ground … so that the distance between the pitcher’s plate and home base (the rear point of home plate) shall be 60 feet, 6 inches. [emphasis added]

It was this discovery which prompted me to dig out my old glove, buy a half dozen hardballs, place a sheet of half-inch plywood against the back wall of the guestroom, paint a strike zone on it, place a rectangular slab of whitened rubber in the middle of my living room, and begin pitching.

As I said, however, there are hazards involved. I discovered this evening that a wild pitch thrown too high will rebound off the lintel of the doorway between the kitchen and the hall. At a velocity nearly equal to what it was thrown at (cf. Newton’s third law) the ball ricochets back directly at the head of the pitcher who has a fraction of a millisecond to duck and cover. Perhaps this is a good way to condition the pitcher to not throw wild pitches. I decide, however, to install a wedge of cardboard between the ceiling and lintel which will deflect any such pitches in the future.

Comments

  1. Mr. Potter is now a middle relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

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