Batting Practice

Ugh, the last two days have not gone anywhere as planned. It’s been a rollercoaster of fires needing to get put out, colleagues being jackasses, and good things, too. Like getting invited to teach a virtualization class at a conference in Phoenix on November 6th. Of course, that’s the day before VMworld, so I’m hoping that I can just drive over to LA and indulge. We’ll see how well that works out.

My stress relief lately has been the batting cages. I swam in high school, but never played any sports that required coordination. That was my brother’s domain, and he excelled at it. As we age he and I are swapping lives. He becomes a sysadmin and I become a softball player. Interestingly enough, learning to hit a ball is the same as learning to be a good system administrator: practice, practice, practice.

It’s demoralizing, though, starting from scratch. To get better you must face how much you stink. Last spring I started going to the cages and I would hit 1 in 30 pitches. Those “hits” would be foul balls, though, with 1 in 100 being an infield grounder. A couple thousand pitches later and it was 1 in 5, all fouls and grounders down the third base line. Two weeks ago I swung at 300 pitches, more that I’d ever hit in a single session. I was on fire and my ratio of ball contact to pitches was 1 to 1.05. Not all good hits, but contact. Like ghostly ball players walking out of an Iowa cornfield the beginnings of fly balls were appearing, waving taunts at me. I was on the cusp of figuring it out.

Tonight I had nothing on my schedule. I was pissed off from work. The cages were desolate, save the terminally bored high school kid reminding me to wear a helmet. One at a time I fed the machine tokens, 30 in all, and faced 480 pitches. I was on fire, didn’t want to stop. Not all the hits were quality, and I began judging them myself. Out. Out. Hit. Double. Out. Foul. Hit. Hit. Sweet. For the first time it wasn’t enough for me to make contact. I had to be productive. I had to get a hit, be on base.

My secret with everything I am good at is extensive practice, alone. When I began going to the batting cages I went with others who would give me hints. Telling me what to do doesn’t work. I have to do it myself to learn it. I am just like that, and it has taken years for me to realize it. Some call me a “kinetic” personality. No matter what I do, whether it’s installing a new OS or trying to straighten out my third-base-line-drives, I need to do it, and do it myself to learn it.

Somewhere around pitch 300 tonight an epiphany occurred: I figured out how to hit fly balls. Intentionally. I started being able to alternate grounders with fly balls. Intentionally. Now I’m itching for a game to try my luck against real humans, and improve my .250 batting average.

For the immediate future, though, I see ibuprofen. 🙂