“Dad, can you show me how to throw a change-up?”
My eight-year old future Braves phenom wannabe flashed his hopeful smile at me as we took to our cement pitching practice arena (aka, the driveway).
“No, I don’t know how to throw a change-up. You need to ask someone who can actually tell you the right way.”
“How ‘bout #48 from the Braves?”
Images of Tommy Hanson, the Braves #3 starter flashed through my head. “Uh, you need to ask somebody we know.”
“Oh,” my little guy said, as we threw warm-up tosses. “Somebody we know, huh?”
“Yes, but you need to work on just throwing the ball. Get the ball over the plate as hard as you can on a consistent basis.”
He threw a few pitches as we began our simulated start. The goal is to throw 50 pitches, similar to the rules in his league. (Fifty pitches or less and he can pitch in 48 hours. Anything over 50 and he has to wait for 72 hours.) We’d been going every two days since spring break started, hoping to keep him fresh when the season resumed. Like every day we practiced, he opened up with a strikeout of his first batter after getting to a full count.
“Nice job,” I said, tossing the ball back to him. “You ready for the next batter?”
He nodded and smiled and that should have alerted me. Something’s up when he’s quiet. He stepped into his wind-up and appeared to have a hitch before throwing a ball that did a good imitation of rolling off a table.
“Strike,” I said.
“That was my change-up. What did you think?”
I grudgingly admitted it had been a good one, but admonished him to focus on just getting a good pitch over the plate. Consistency. Consistency. Consistency. Given that he’s eight, I knew what was coming next.
I saw that little “stop hitch” again and hoped for similar success. The pitch hit the rim of the basketball goal and bounced into our garage.
“Ok. Remember the first rule of driveway. No hitting Mommy or Daddy’s car.”
He stared at the ground and promised not to do it again. We finished the rest of the session without incident, making it through two simulated innings. He looked at me, proud of getting out of a jam after walking the bases loaded.
“Dad, can I try throwing a side-arm?”
“Do you know anybody that throws a side-arm?”
“Yeah, #58 for the Braves.”
Though I wasn’t sure of the number, I knew who he meant. “Sure,” I said. “Go look up the number for Turner Field on the Net, gives the Braves a call, and when they answer, ask to speak to Peter Moylan. Maybe he’ll help. In the meantime, we’ll try to find somebody we know.”
He smiled as he went inside to wash up and get ready for dinner. Meanwhile, I thought to myself, who I am going to find that can show him how to throw those pitches? If any of you readers know Tommy Hanson or Peter Moylan, please ask them to get in touch with me. Thanks.