Nicholas Mercer: The violence of throwing a softball

Published on September 12, 2016

Seeing high-level fastpitch softball play out on a computer screen over a webcast doesn't do the game justice.

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Seeing high-level fastpitch softball play out on a computer screen over a webcast doesn't do the game justice.

Nor does it allow the average fan to appreciate just what goes into throwing the softball very hard at the plate.

When you're watching the game 20-feet from the pitching rubber, it's easy to see the webcast sells the act incredibly short.

A hush falls over the crowd as the pitcher takes his signs from the catcher. They're counting on seeing something great with every pitch. That sense of anticipation only heightens when the pitcher rocks back before leaping towards the plate and uncoiling a ball that travels at ungodly speeds.

That's followed by an equally disturbing crack of the catcher's mitt.

The uninitiated - or someone who spent the better part of their life marveling at baseball pitchers - just aren't prepared for what it looks like up close.

It's all violence. Pitching in baseball is tame by comparison. Now, that's not speaking ill of throwing the ball hard.

That's not what this is about.

Instead, look at the mechanics of both acts. In baseball, the delivery of the ball to the plate is smooth and fluid.

The very best make it seem effortless to throw the ball. They're balanced as they deal mid-90s fastballs all over the strike zone.

Softball, on the other hand, masks its technique. The sheer combativeness that goes with throwing the ball completely conceals the technical beauty of every pitch.

The fluidity and pitching mastery is there, but on the surface the violence behind each ball hurled toward the backstop is astounding.

Picture a medieval catapult waiting to launch a boulder at some castle wall. A simple pull of a lever unleashes destruction upon its enemies.

That cataclysmic power directed at the hitter can only come from someone who is in complete control of the body.

It doesn't happen by accident, or without an innate understanding of how to stay balanced while throwing the ball like a nuclear warhead designed to obliterate the opposition.

The ones that are good at it are the best for a reason.

To be honest, I never truly appreciated what goes into throwing softballs hard. I knew it was tough to hit, but I was surprised by the violence of it.

Really, it's something to witness. The gentle rock, the leap and the flying dirt comes first. Then, like the release of a trigger, the pitcher's arm whirls 360 degrees and fires the ball at an astounding speed.

To be honest, I feel for the hitters.

Nicholas Mercer is a reporter/photographer with The Compass. He lives in Bay Roberts, NL,  and can be reached at nmercer@cbncompass.ca.