101, 102…Whatever it Takes

I was watching my favorite sports team last evening. They were leading the game 5-4 going into the ninth inning. This might be the place you’d possibly expect me to say, “They blew it.” Fortunately, that didn’t happen. The game ended in spectacular fashion with the score unchanged. It did so, in large part, to the relief pitching.

For both sides, the eighth and ninth inning hurlers were quite good. One guy, in particular, Felipe Vasquez, was magnificent. He pitched the top half of the last inning. It was, in a word, superb. In two words, he was “lights out!” He retired the side, 1-2-3, in a display of efficiency.

A Bit Different

For the final out, he had to face the opposition’s best hitter. As circumstances would have it, that same guy had gotten to him for a home run the last time they met. Things were a bit different this time.

Vasquez struck him out to end the game. He did it on three pitches—three sick pitches (as the young players like to say). The first was a breaking ball, but the final two were unvarnished fastballs. The first one registered 102 miles per hour on the stadium radar gun. The last pitch, a high hard one that had the batter flailing, was clocked at 101. It was a thing of beauty.

I watch these sorts of outings with a great deal of admiration—for several reasons. First of all, I spent a few seasons on the mound as a teenager. I was okay, but I only got guys out because of my control. I knew where to stick my 47 miles per hour pitches and generally put them where I wanted them to go. So, I can appreciate a guy who can heave it twice as fast as I ever could. (Full disclosure: We didn’t actually have radar guns in those days, so I’m estimating my fastball—if you can call it fast.)

Secondly, I’ve never had to stand in the batter’s box against a guy who could throw that hard. Frankly, you couldn’t pay me enough money to do so. It would be tantamount to suicide for a guy like me.

Superhuman

Finally, anyone who can throw that hard is almost superhuman. Those dudes are few and far between. Ones who can actually control those pitches are even more rare. They are precious commodities on any baseball team. It’s an extraordinary delight when your favorite team lands a guy like that.

Pitchers like Vasquez are as rare as the Word of the Lord in the days of Eli (1 Samuel 3:1). When you do see one, you relish the time you spend watching him. When the Word of the Lord came to Samuel, neither he nor Eli recognized what it was at first. Once they realized it was God, however, they paid attention.

Among major league closers, Vasquez is the real deal. He’s got my attention. His fastball isn’t as awesome as God’s Word, but it’s fun to watch.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

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