I started out as an outfielder. I could run like crazy, so playing left field was a natural fit. One day, they needed a catcher, and I volunteered. I was hooked. My mind works like crazy. So, being in a position where I not only part of every pitch, but had to understand how to call the pitches, had to read the field and who was on base, know what needs to happen if the ball is hit next, and know how to call the plays – all of them was perfect for me. I loved being able to make the right split second decisions.
As a catcher, you spend a lot of time keeping your pitcher from succumbing to their own frustration. If they are struggling, it is the catcher’s job to pull them out of it. In college, I always got paired with the struggling pitchers. I worked my ass off behind the plate to keep their bad pitching from impacting the game anymore than it already was. The pitcher I worked with for two years lost her mojo one season. Wild pitches were her specialty. My specialty became knocking them down – and getting her back into the groove. My senior year I had to keep a pocket full of dirty jokes for my freshman pitcher. It got her head focusing where it should be for some reason. Her favorite was “how tell the best guy at a nudist colony?” – he’s the one that can carry two cups of coffee and a dozen donuts. There were games where I would simply yell to her “how many donuts should he be able to carry?” She would start laughing, and her pitching would immediately improve.
Three weeks ago, I started a half-marathon training group. In my pace group, I connected with a guy who runs a very similar pace to me. We started chatting during our first run about our running experience. He was a pitcher in college and told stories about what training was like for them. I told him I was an anomaly – a catcher who can still run. We joked about it as we ran our 4 miles, and I knew he would be the guy I’d be training with.
This week, we did a horrible run – 4 miles with horrible hills. It was NOT fun. But, I was determined to do it. Partially because on Sunday, I want to have the soreness remind me that I need to get my ass out and run more. I hit the top of the horrible, horrible hill – and I was thrilled that I made it to the top. Traffic stopped me at the top, and I glanced behind me. My pitcher buddy was struggling. He had stopped and was walking. You could tell he was thinking about just heading back. He was totally in his head – and not in the good way. I paused for a second and yelled “come on – let’s run together.” He started back up again, and I just started talking. He isn’t a runner, so I suggested how he think of hills. Don’t keep running your same pace – put yourself into low gear – like a car going up a hill. Then, relax and let the downhill control the pace. We talked about his week. We talked about the word of the day. I told him about running the half marathon and how I could not understand how people were stopping every watering station. I can’t do that stop and go crap. And intermixed with the conversation, I would look at my running watch and point out how far we had left to go. Or make a comment about how good pace we had. Or, look, it’s downhill now.
The last few blocks, it was uphill. We got within a block of being done, and he started walking. “Dude, you are a fucking block from being done – now is NOT the time to stop after everything you’ve been through. Let’s finish this run.” And he laughed and started running again.
We finished the run and started stretching. His friend who is also training came up and asked how the run was. He glanced at me and said to his friend, “This is Emmy. She pulled me along for the last 2 miles. Without her, I would still be back there somewhere wondering what the hell I was doing.” Then he turned to me and said “thank you – I seriously couldn’t do it without you.”
It’s funny because while I was doing it, I kept feeling like it was just another trip to the mound.