by Steve Laube
In honor of the upcoming baseball season I thought it would be fun to explore the art of pitching.
A couple years ago I was watching a Major League baseball game and the pitcher unleashed a horrific throw that sailed about eight feet behind the batter. It floated to the backstop without a bounce and everyone in the stadium wonder what had just happened. It looked like the pitcher lost his grip and could not stop his delivery. In baseball terms this is classified as a wild pitch.
Unfortunately many writers unleash a pitch on an agent or an editor before it is ready to deliver. Let me list a few actual letters I have received.
“Save for the Bible, the book you’re holding in your other hand is the most important work you’ll ever read! Let me know what you think.”
“I sincerely doubt you will engage in any business with me, just because that’s how sick and sordid the industry has become…I mean, I produced the piece of work, you didn’t. Now, I challenge you to do your job.”
Subject line of the email said: “DON’T READ THIS.” (So I didn’t.)
“I came across your listing on the internet. You would not have been my first choice…”
“All my literary efforts…are stirring works caught in the vortex of disintegrating modernity. Each work is a mixed genre, essentially fiction-fantasy-history, with an environmental twist, and many young folks.”
“This novel is…an enjoyable romp with outrageous characters and themes that just about anyone can identify with; including sinister ‘friends,’ insane parents, existential nausea, jealousy, and sexual frustration.”
A good pitch, on the other hand, is delivered with focus and precision. Think about it for a minute. A baseball pitcher starts by learning how to grip the ball. Then comes the best way to actually throw the ball. Some adjust their arm angle to achieve the best way to maintain the right speed for that particular pitch. Don Sutton, a great pitcher in his day, was not known for his overpowering arm but he learned that the genius of his delivery came from his legs and core body strength. Each pitcher finds his own comfort zone and type of pitch that works for them. Some are all about speed (Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax), others are all about curveballs or change ups. And some are about placement in, or out, of the strike zone. Or like Mariano Rivera of the Yankees who has a wicked split fastball.
Much like a major league pitcher you must work on your delivery. Find the best way to pitch your idea in such a way that it is easy to catch. Focus. Precision. Intent. And a pitch that is really strong.
Let’s carry the concept one step further. Each pitcher is different, just like each writer is different. For every Nolan Ryan, strikeout artist, there is a Wilbur Wood, whose knuckleball pitch was almost impossible to hit squarely. But each pitcher uses the same fundamentals of grip, arm speed, leg strength, and follow through.