Thursday, July 23, 2009

Now *that* was a play!

Mark Buehrle pitched a perfect game today! That's quite a story in itself, but the part I liked best was the play within the play.

Going into the ninth inning, the Sox brought in Dewayne Wise as a defensive replacement in center field. Of course, everyone was on edge, wondering if Buehrle could pull it off, and when you're a defensive replacement in such a situation...well, that's a lot of pressure. You just cannot, can not, can not do anything but field perfectly if the ball is hit your way.

The ball was hit Wise's way.

What he did was not only a great play, it might have been the play of the year. Contrast this one with Jeter's play that I discussed in the previous post. The main problems with the Jeter play were that it involved questionable decision-making and ordinary physical feats. Here's what Wise's play involved:

(1) He had to get a great jump. No sooner was the ball off the bat and the camera got onto Wise than he was flying -- he clearly must have gotten a great jump.

(2) He had to take the right line. Nothing special for a defensive specialist, but he did take the perfect line, which is important when you have no time to spare.

(3) He had to run really, really fast. Wise ran really, really fast, faster than all but a very few human beings can. If he doesn't, he doesn't get to the ball.

(4) He had to take his eye off the ball to take a peek at where the wall was. Check.

(5) He had to pick up the ball again and find it, without hesitation. Check.

(6) He had to slow just a touch and gather himself for the jump so that he could arrive when the ball did. Check.

(7) He had to time his leap perfectly. Check.

(8) He had to do all that while maintaining concentration, knowing full well that he was going to hit the wall. Hard. He hit the wall. Hard. He maintained concentration.

(9) He had to catch the ball. Check.

(10) The ball arrived in his glove just as his body arrived at the wall, and the impact jostled the ball loose. Wise kept his eye on the ball, stayed with it, and gathered it in.

One out. Two batters later, and President Obama was making a congratulatory phone call to Buehrle.

Now that, my friends, was a play.

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