Spot the Difference
Yesterday I took three separate pictures of three separate Johnny Cueto pitches through my binoculars. All three photos happened to be taken at the same moment in his follow-through, and all three pictures look nearly identical. I wish I’d written down the statistics for these three pitches: miles per hour, ball or strike, where they landed in the batter’s zone.
It’s not just Cueto: Frazier too crouches at third, waiting in a position he knows will let him spring up in anticipation of the catch or the play, does he cover third, does he reach for the line drive. Even the umpire: hand on thigh, head toward home plate.
One thing I find so interesting about baseball, the reason I go again and again, is the apparent consistency, the sameness that drives the sport, when nothing is exactly the same. In this moment, we have no idea if Frazier will head right or left. No matter how identical Cueto’s pitches appear, there are shifts in the wind that affect the ball’s path, a fraction of a second’s change in when his fingers release the ball that could result in a ball versus a strike. But this follow-through: the choreography that is performed over and over so many times that he knows it like the way you move one foot in front of another, like the way writers write with our fingers on the keyboard like pianists, knowing the strokes, but not always finding the same words.
The fans, too: there’s an apparent sameness until you look closer; the differences are more subtle and therefore more rewarding once you see them. Yesterday in a sea of red behind Moerlein, all of us sea creatures wore different combinations of fan gear, different interpretations and sometimes different shades of red. The girl in the black blazer and red spandex. The guy with the t-shirt that made him look like a bobblehead. Two girls chattering in Cincinnati satin starter jackets. The dude with the sleeveless red denim vest, patches, red high tops, and a kerchief out his back pocket. This guy. Some more subtle than others, but no two exactly the same. Later that night, we watched Cosmos, and Neil deGrasse Tyson explained how, apart from twins, no two creatures on earth share the same DNA. So it is with people, and pitches, and writers.
Our subtle interpretations of life and love, the shifts in the wind and the words that make it worth going again and again and trying to spot the differences each time.