The Wild Pitch

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.

Play ball!

16 Responses to The Wild Pitch

  1. Dedicated Writer - Tammy L. Hensel March 26, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    Great blog as usual! Enjoyed finally meeting you in person. Have a wonderful day in the Lord!

  2. Richard Mabry March 26, 2012 at 5:30 am #

    Steve, some excellent advice. The baseball metaphor is very apt, and resonates with me (since that was my position). In baseball, sometimes the pitcher uses a “purpose pitch,” coming inside to move the batter away from the plate and out of their comfort zone. In the sport, this works well, However, when the writer unleashes a query to an agent that insults or angers them… Well, that’s another story, isn’t it?
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Steve Laube March 26, 2012 at 8:35 am #

      Richard, as long as you don’t throw at my head I’m usually willing to play.

  3. Connie Almony March 26, 2012 at 5:40 am #

    Great analogy! Gives me a good sense of what to do and why.

  4. Matthew Sheehy March 26, 2012 at 6:25 am #

    Thanks for giving a Yankee some love instead of trashing the team. Bring on the baseball season!

    • Steve Laube March 26, 2012 at 8:33 am #

      It is respect for Mariano Rivera…not the Yankees! Shudder. We Diamondback fans are still buzzing about winning the World Series in 2001 over the Yankees on a hit off…Mariano Rivera. :-)

      • Matthew Sheehy March 26, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

        The infield was drawn in! If Jeter was in his normal spot (or if the d-backs had let Byung-Hyun Kim pitch more), the Yankees could’ve won their fourth world series in a row.

  5. Bethany Macklin March 26, 2012 at 6:29 am #

    I don’t know which is more amusing; those “wild” pitches or your response to them!

    My father in law played semi-pro ball (as a pitcher) and my husband played pitcher all through high school, so your analogy really hit home. :)

    Thanks for another focused, helpful post.

  6. Lindsay Harrel March 26, 2012 at 7:19 am #

    I can’t believe that people would pitch that stuff to you! And in such a way! Wow.

    Loved the analogy here. You’re right: focus will win out.

  7. Nancy B. Kennedy March 26, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    OK, you mentioned baseball and I love the game. Have you ever noticed how many classic pop and rock songs are about baseball? And not just “Put me in, Coach…”! Consider:

    You know I think it’s time to give this game a ride.
    Just to hit the ball and touch ‘em all—a moment in the sun.
    (It’s a beautiful day for baseball!)

    There’s gonna be a heartache tonight, a heartache tonight, I know.
    (The other team is going down!)

    Hit me with your best shot… fire away!
    (Show me what ya got, pitch!)

    Uh, uh, uh, uh, stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.
    (Holding up in the batter’s box.)

    You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might just find you get what you need.
    (A walk’s as good as a hit!)

    I’m goin’ nowhere, somebody help me, somebody help me please.
    (Stranded on first.)

    Clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you.
    (Runner on second.)

    Oh momma, I’m in fear for my life from the long arm of the law.
    (Ump, did you see?!? Pitcher balked!)

    Put me in, Coach. I’m ready to play… today.
    (Look at me, I can be… Centerfield!)

    But I still haven’t found what I’m lookin’ for.
    (Lost the ball in the sun. And, yes, I’m still runnin’!)

    Wonder this time where she’s gone, wonder if she’s gone to stay.
    (Relax… your girl just went for a hot dog. She’ll be back! I know, I know, I know, I know…)

    So you got to let me know, should I stay or should I go…
    (Watch the third base coach!)

    This wheel’s on fire, rollin’ down the road.
    (Barreling into home… hold on, catch!)

    Somebody’s gonna hurt someone, before the night is through.
    (Someone get the ice!)

    Feelin’ alright? I’m not feeling too good myself.
    (Any more Gaterade in the cooler?)

    We are the champions, my friend, and we’ll keep on fighting ‘til the end.
    (The season is dragging, but we can still pull it off.)

    I can’t help feelin’, we coulda had it all.
    (There’s always next year!)

    • Steve Laube March 26, 2012 at 8:38 am #

      Speechless!
      How about:

      That don’t impress me much.
      (An inside pitch without any mustard on it.)

      Taking care of Business.
      (a routine ground ball.)

      Climbing a stairway to heaven.
      (sitting in the cheap seats at the ballpark.)

      • Nancy B. Kennedy March 26, 2012 at 9:12 am #

        LOVE IT!

        Taking care of business and working overtime…
        (Extra innings.)

        This could go on forever!

  8. Ruth Douthitt March 26, 2012 at 11:33 am #

    Wow, those are some pretty…interesting(?) pitches!

    Thanks for the analogy! I hope to be more precise with my pitch.

    Thanks for the tips!

  9. Amanda Dykes March 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    Oh, goodness. This had me laughing for two reasons:

    (1) It’s just plain funny; and
    (2) Sadly, I have my own baseball faux pas to relate.

    I was a totally by-the-book kid. I mean, if I didn’t know how to do something well, I just wouldn’t risk it. Not such a great quality, if I ever hoped to learn anything… but one day I worked up the courage to try something new at the plate: bunting.

    Only problem? I didn’t know what bunting was. I just took my six(ish)-year-old brain, put it to work, and concocted some definition of what I thought bunting must logically (???) be, based on what it sounded like.

    I stepped up to the plate, and when that over-sized, padded softball came floating my way from some parent/coach, I filled my lungs, I jutted my jaw…. and I poked the ball. With the bat. And missed. Yep, you read right: poked it. Stuck that thing straight out in mid-air like a pool stick and gave it a jab. People laughed, I was mortified (I snicker at six-year-old self now)…and that’s how I learned what bunting was NOT.

    Lesson learned? Know what it is you’re trying to do before you give it a swing (or a poke). Or, in your more eloquent words, “Find the best way to pitch your idea in such a way that it is easy to catch.”

  10. Jennifer Major March 27, 2012 at 4:58 am #

    I’m out in left field….

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Wild Pitch by Steve Laube « Northwest Christian Writers Association - July 23, 2012

    [...] post first appeared March 26, 2012 on The Steve Laube Agency blog. Reprinted by kind [...]

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