I think having pitchers hit should be part of the game; it adds so much more to the strategy. During interleague play, I think our whole bench got used most days, which makes for more of a cat-and-mouse game.
Standing up there with a bat and facing big league pitchers looks fun and actually is quite fun … until you face a guy who can kill you, and you have to bunt. All the ideas of calling your shot by pointing to the outfield bleachers like Babe Ruth go out the window.
Most pitchers are not like Mike Hampton. Hamp is probably the most athletic pitcher I’ve played with. He is the only pitcher I’ve seen who can do a standing back flip.
Heck, he was recruited by Florida State to be a defensive back–that sealed it for me. For Hamp, it is no big deal to go up to the plate and not only not look like an idiot but actually be a threat in the box.
He has a chance to break the single-season home run record for pitchers. (Hampton has six; the major league record is nine.) If anyone chalks that one up to Coors Field, I’ll puke.
I imagine it is a lot more serious at the plate for starting pitchers. But for relievers, let alone American League relievers, it is way more relaxed.
You get in the box and ask the standard ice-breaking question: “Hey, which way to first?” That tells the catcher and the ump, “Just let me bunt, and I’ll go on my way, and in the process I’ll try not to get killed or pull my hamstring.”
Once you’re in the box, it becomes surreal. It’s like you’re watching it in slow motion. The first thing that is obvious is the pitcher is right on top of you. Then you think back and realize that you are that close to the hitter when you pitch.
Anyway, you stand there, and you probably will get a first-pitch fastball. You see the pitch and hear the hiss of the seams coming at you for strike one. The next thing that you immediately wonder: “How can anybody hit this?”
You swear that when you’re pitching, it doesn’t look that hard–if it was, the hitters would not hit homers off you.
After the first strike, then you get the pitcher’s breaking ball. It comes at you, then disappears.
By this time, you realize that you have made the right choice by being a pitcher–you couldn’t have hit that with a tennis racket.
By the time you get to 0-2, you hope you will at least swing the bat so you won’t get abused by your teammates. You get in the box, the pitcher’s got you, so he tries to bury you. You see the ball coming, and by some miracle you make contact. You don’t know where the ball is because you closed your eyes. You take off to first base, and you hear the first base ump say “foul ball.”
Your at-bat isn’t over yet, but now you’re happy. You made contact, you’re still in one piece, and when you eventually go back to the dugout, you can tell the guys how you just missed your pitch and how lucky that pitcher was that he got that one back. Everybody’s happy.
One thing you have to know is the strike zone. When you hit, it is huge, so you had better be swinging. You stand in the box, beaming with confidence. You dig in, adjust your cup and spit, because you’ve seen the hitters do it. You do all you can, but the pitcher throws you an unreal splitter. You swing and hit the plate trying to catch it before it breaks. You are back to reality.
You set your helmet down, go to the bench and wonder, “How can I give up a hit?”
Then you realize that they can’t pitch just like you can’t hit. But nobody makes Barry Bonds pitch. So why do I have to hit?