A friend of mine shared the following essay with me recently. She knows I’m a baseball fan, but I’m not sure if she realizes I’m a newbie writer. Either way, it’s a good little piece written by the fellow you see in the photograph here.
I have been a baseball player for twenty-eight years, the last fifteen of which I have had the blessing of playing professionally.
I am currently a pitcher for the New York Mets, and I specialize in throwing the knuckleball. I have had an affinity for literature for an equally long time. I remember writing poetry, albeit the “make a wish with a fish on a dish” type stuff, as early as fourth grade. All this is to say that throughout my career as a baseball player, I have been able to discover a great many similarities between the game of baseball and the written word.
Throwing a good knuckleball is like walking a tightrope. I have dedicated the last five years of my life to that end, and I still wobble and lose my balance, only to throw a beach ball to the hitter and have him promptly deposit it into the left field bleachers. However, when I do get it right, it is an unmistakable sensation. The ball comes out perfectly from beneath my fingernails and has about a quarter of a rotation on it from the time it leaves my hand until the time it gets to the catcher’s mitt. The result is pure euphoria, a ball that looks like a butterfly in a windstorm. No hitter on Earth possesses the skill to hit it squarely.
It is analogous to writing a perfect line of poetry. Let us take “The Raven” by Edgar Allan Poe, for example. When I read the line, “And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain,” I cannot help thinking that Poe felt the same unequivocal exhilaration that only the perfect mixture of rhyme, alliteration, and meter can produce. In both cases, the product is much more than happenstance: It is the result of dedication, risk, and rhythm. Fundamentally, there is a piece of one’s soul attached to the outcome.
Speaking of perseverance and the writing life, make sure you check out Heather King’s series over at her blog, Shirt of Flame. You’ll be glad you did. There is a Part One, Part Two, and Part Three (so far).
UPDATE: A friend just informed me that R.A. Dickey was featured on NPR’s Fresh Air show today. Check out the post, and give the interview a listen.
UPDATE II: Dickey’s knuckle ball blanked the Dodgers, as the Mets won last night 9-0. The is one hard “butterfly in a hurricane” to hit.