Blocking Is More Than You Think

What if I told you that blocking a pitch has less to do with the game than you might think? What if I told you that blocking a pitch has less to do with winning the game than you think? What if I told you that blocking a pitch has less to do with stopping the advancement of a runner than you might think?

What if I told you blocking a ball and being a good blocker has less to do with the game and more to do with relationships?

Yep, I’m going to set out to show you that blocking a pitch has far less to do with the game itself and so much more to do with the relationships that we build along the way.

Catching lasts only a season of life, relationships can last forever.

How many of you would willingly put on catcher’s gear and let a major league baseball player throw a pitch in the mid 80’s at you in the dirt? For no reason at all. Just put the gear on and have someone throw a ball at you.

Any takers?

What if we increased the stakes a little bit? What if you do it to stop another human from running 90 feet? You get to stop them from going from A to B. Does that increase your desire to take a hit?

No?

What if I told you you get to sit behind the plate and get crushed by a pitch going over 80 miles an hour and in return you get to win a board game?

No? Still not enough incentive?

Ok, what if you were told that if you put on catcher’s gear and allow a pitcher to throw a ball at you in the dirt at more than 80 mph that your whole family would celebrate and throw a huge party and they would all be completely filled with joy and you get to be a hero?

Now would you do it?

I think many of you would. I think there is more incentive here than any other scenario. I think you would willingly do something that you know will benefit others even if it takes you sacrificing your own safety and accepting a little pain or discomfort.

Are you a parent? If so, you can probably relate. What would you do for your kids? Would you embrace a little bit of pain for their benefit? Of course you would. Many of you probably already have.

So why am I talking about this anyway? What does blocking have to do with relationships and why are you reading this right now?

I’ll tell you…

Today, I was training a young baseball player, under 12 years old, and we were working on blocking.

We will call him J.

J was having a hard time doing what I was asking him to do, he said it hurt his knees. And he wasn’t making it up or being defiant, blocking is pretty painful. I mean think about it. We are asking a person to slam their body to the ground and allow a ball to slam into them. Not the most comfortable thing in the world.

It only took one story for me to help J get over the little discomfort he was experiencing. Let me bring you into the cage and tell you the story I told him…

In 2006 I was in the College World Series playing for the University of North Carolina. I was catching against Cal State Fullerton.

Runner on third.

At the time, I was 6’-2” tall and weighed a light 185lbs. The runner on third weight about 210lbs. He was a big dude. I was medium.

Squeeze play.

Bad bunt.

Pitcher fields the ball.

Throws it to me.

This is where it gets interesting. The runner was bearing down on me. My pitcher has just delivered me the ball. There was one problem though. The throw caused me to reach high and right, which completely exposed me to getting crushed by the runner should he want to take me out with a hard slide.

He did.

As I caught the ball, I knew I was going to get crushed. Did that stop me from completely sacrificing my own well being for my teammates?

Nope.

I caught the ball with one hand, fully stretched out up and to my right. I started bring the ball down, being sure to get my right hand securely around the ball to make sure he didn’t score a run against us. As I continued to turned I started to instinctually drop my right knee down into the path of the oncoming runner so he couldn’t get his foot to home plate.

A split second later I felt like I was hit by a train.

210lbs crushed into my body at 15-20mph.

The runner slid, but the way he slid was designed to dislodge the ball. Completely legal slide. But extremely aggressive and dangerous. He slid feet first as late as he possibly could, causing his knee to drill me directly in the right thigh.

I thought it broke my leg at impact.

As I hobbled around behind home plate, showing the ball to the umpire, and looking for the batter-runner I called timeout to take some time off to regain my strength.

I hobbled out to the mound and talked with my pitcher for a few minutes until I regained feeling in my right leg.

The impact of his knee caused me to have a football sized bruise on my right thigh for about 2 weeks. Fortunately for me, he didn’t break my leg.

Would I do it the same way all over again? Absolutely. Even if it broke my leg? More than likely, yes.

The joy of stopping a run for the 24 other guys on my team was so filling that the pain was easy to bear and I would gladly accept it again. To this day, 11 years later, I’m still filled with joy when I look back on this play.

J listened intently as I told him this story today.

He got it. He understood. It made sense to him. It resonated. So when I asked him if he was willing to deal with a little bit of discomfort while blocking pitches to experience the greater joy of laying it on the line for his team he gave me a resounding YES!

The next 5 blocks this little guy had perfect form and stopped each ball, took control of the ball, and didn’t feel any discomfort.

When working with kids it is so important to help them understand the big picture. Yes, catching can be physically painful, but psychologically and emotionally it is so rewarding. And anyone who has caught for very long will take on a little pain and discomfort to experience the joy of laying it all on the line for their teammates.

So when I say blocking is all about relationships. This is what I mean. It is about the team. It is about your teammates, your friends, your brothers. Your family. They need you.

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