The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

bbbbbbbbbbbbb

I am a terrible human being

There’s this outfit called the Mat-su Valley Frontiersman, and it’s a small local paper around here that writes small, local articles about small, local things. So that’s fine. This week there’s an article in the Frontiersman called "Coming Home," and it’s about a local boy who done made it good, and how awesome an achievement this is. But then right underneath the title is the line

Grit and guts paying off for Valley pitcher in ABL

And I just know I’m going to Hell. Because I am about to ridicule — on the internet, no less — an article in the local paper about a local boy and how heartwarming and awesome he is.

Local boy makes good is always a great story. What if the local boy isn’t the biggest, most physically gifted kid? What if he’s more like Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger?

That is the first line of the article! That is the first line of the article. I cannot tell you how excited I am. You know in cartoons when a character’s eyes get really big and like dollar signs appear in them? My eyes literally just did that, only instead of dollar signs they were little tiny Baseball-Reference player pages. No, that’s true.

Known as a grooming ground for top college players and Major League Baseball draft picks, the Alaska Baseball League is loaded with skilled baseball players — big, physical and full of talent. Rarely does a local Alaska player catch on in the ABL, and more rare that he has much success. The odds are long, and fitting in with the players from the nation’s top colleges and programs can be intimidating at best for small-town ballplayers.

Fun fact: the state of Alaska contains 731,449 people. The United States of Baseball contains 316,163,000 people. Do you know what fraction of 316,163,000 731,000 is? That’s right: it is 0/14. I submit that the fact that 0% of the talent pool originates in Alaska is more of a factor than "intimidation" in determining how many of them make the ABL.

Except, nothing intimidates Palmer-grown Kyle Bovy.

Well, fuck me. I guess growing up on the mean streets of Palmer made him that much more Ecksteinian.

Many gunslingers of the Wild West weren’t big, either; just fast, smart and confident.

What

At 5-feet-10 and 140 pounds, Bovy matches talent, size and pedigree with his grit, guts and savvy. Like Billy the Kid’s six-gun, Bovy’s unique pitch comes off the hip, low slung, released from his shoe-tops.

I don’t care if this is a small-town local paper: that is the single most amazing thing anyone has ever written about a baseball player. It is so perfect that, if I hadn’t seen the actual physical paper myself, I would guess that some sly fox hacked into frontiersman.com and inserted that into the sports section as a joke. Let us document the many ways this is the best:

  • Obviously fake athlete "listed height and weight"
  • Grit
  • Guts
  • Savvy
  • 100% nonsensical simile
  • Way way way too wordy

And I know I mentioned it in the list, but I’d like to draw more attention to this: I am 5’5″ tall, and I did at one point weigh 140 pounds. I was positively gaunt. The only universe in which this dude weighs 140 pounds is the same one in which André the Giant was 7’4″ and weighed 640 pounds.

They call it the submarine, a rare pitch in baseball and a total departure from the traditional overhand throwing motion. It’s more like a torpedo, screaming at the target under the surface, catching victims unaware. Thrown underhand with a forward rotation, the sinking ball can be very tough for a batter to track.

You know why it’s rare? Because trick pitches can be really tough on amateur and like rookie-league guys, but once you get out of Class A everybody’s seen it before. And then the fact that you can’t throw it any harder than 80 mph is going to murder you.

Although most pitchers usually throw it around 80 mph, Bovy already hits the mid 80s consistently.

Oh, he already throws it 2 – 4 mph harder than "most pitchers?" Well, shit. I’m sure Miguel Cabrera will have a really hard time hitting your 84-mph meatball.

A few years ago, his coach at the College of Marvin, Conor Bird, wanted to add a submarine pitcher to the rotation.

The College of what, now?

He needed a kid not afraid of a change and a challenge, someone who knew the game inside and out, someone with more heart, hustle and head than physical ability and talent.

He needed somebody expendable, who was going to get goddamn cut unless he picked up a gimmick. Also: your article has now used the words "grit," "guts," "heart," and "hustle." Congratulations: you have written for the cycle.

He turned to the kid he watched growing up around baseball while he was coaching the Mat-Su Miners to great success — Kyle Bovy.

That sentence is a turd. I’m sorry, I know picking on syntax is kind of lame, but, seriously. Your pronouns are all a jumble, and even once I’ve untangled them, there’s no content behind them. You sir should write for ESPN.

And Bovy picked it up quickly, mastered it and has been keeping batters baffled and off balance ever since. Just give him a chance and watch what happens.

The other reason ESPN should hire you is because like every goddamn paragraph you write has some kind of weirdo alliteration in it. Not to mention your switch from preterite indicative to present imperative is really jarring.

Okay, I promise I’ll lay off the syntax for the rest of the article. Maybe.

Watching him warm up in the bullpen, whipping his trademark pitch at Hermon Brothers Field, I listened to a big, confident pitcher with bleach-blond hair and a Division I scholarship loudly exclaim that the submarine pitching style would never get him anywhere.

Now, on the one hand, that’s a super dick move. But on the other hand, this dick pitcher you clearly made up just to set up your ridiculous homily is pretty much right. You know what the best-known trick pitch in baseball is? The knuckleball. You know how many active MLB pitchers throw a knuckler? This guy can tell you.

The kid catching for him tried to stick up for Bovy, bringing up MLB star Tim Lincecum, also a slight-framed overachiever using mechanics over muscle.

I… uh. Here’s the deal, Adam. Tim Lincecum has two Cy Youngs. Do you know what years he won them for? 2008 and 2009. Since then, you know what’s happened? His fastball velocity has dropped. That’s a muscle thing. And he’s now pitching in relief, since he frankly sucks. He’s gone from being worth 7.9 and 7.5 WAR in his Cy young years to 3.7, 4.2, -1.7, and -1.0. He is now a terrible pitcher, and this is almost entirely because he can’t throw hard enough to be successful anymore.

So, the moral of this story is: if you’re going to make up an argument, you can have the dude on your side mention any player you want. And, next time, it would be better if you check your facts and pick a player who doesn’t 100% explode your entire thesis.

The submarine pitch can be effective.

Sure. And you can get people out with an eephus, too. Doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to build your whole career around it.

Ted Abernathy used it for 14 years in the Majors, and Dan Quinsberry rode the submarine style as the best closer in baseball for the Kansas City Royals in the early 1980s.

Ted Abernathy played from 1955 to 1972, making him not the most relevant possible example. Also, perhaps you’re wondering why 1972 minus 1955 utterly fails to equal 14. This is because Ted Abernathy spent big chunks of time in the minors, which is a thing you might want attention drawn away from in your gushing article about a goofball pitch.

Also, Dan Quisenberry — not "Quinsberry," doofus — was indeed the best closer in baseball for the Kansas City Royals in the early 1980s. But you might be suffering from an overabundance of specificity there, and, if we broaden our scope to include non-Royals teams, well, your argument becomes a bit less solid.

According to his mother, Tammy, Bovy’s been hearing this kind of talk from doubters and naysayers his whole life.

"Just put him out there and see what happens," she says. He just keeps proving them all wrong.

Now there’s a neutral observer if ever there was one.

Kyle’s parents tell the story of their son, 5-foot-nothing and 100 pounds soaking wet, trying out for his high school baseball team.

"They said he was too small," Tammy said. "I said, just give him a chance and he’ll show you what he can do."

And they responded "well, we better teach this kid a trick pitch, ’cause he ain’t gonna make it with what he has."

Although local players rarely make an impact in the ABL, this season Kyle is flourishing in his role as a set-up pitcher for the Anchorage Glacier Pilots.

So impactful he’s pitching in middle relief.

Late in a game, after dozens of pitches thrown in a traditional overhand fashion, batters often struggle with a ball suddenly coming from a completely different point with unorthodox movement, speed and placement. Often coming in for just one inning, he keeps opposing batters off-balance and gets them out of rhythm before turning the game over for a closing pitcher to finish out.

The "closing pitcher" — I’m with you; Bill James probably invented the made-up term "closer" the same time he was inventing imaginary fairy concepts like OBP and WHIP — doesn’t face any dudes his setup man faced unless one of them sucks. So: what?

Though he pitches few innings, Kyle’s 0.00 ERA in ABL play so far this year is still impressive, a testament to his baseball background, ability and continually overcoming the odds.

Also a testament to how very, very few innings he’s pitched. Ah, yeah; 4.2 IP. And look at that: he’s up to a 1.92 ERA, since he stank yesterday.

Adam W. Mokelke is principal at Burchell High School and an avid local baseball fan.

Well, now I feel like an asshole. Thanks for that.


July 2nd, 2013 Posted by | Baseball | no comments