October 2, 2009

Verducci features Mariano Rivera in Sports Illustrated


I just finished reading Tom Verducci’s long feature on the Yankees’ Hall-of-Fame-bound closer. “One Man, One Pitch” is a fully-detailed profile of soft-spoken Mariano Rivera from the mistake of finding a cutter to his World Series significance.

My favorite quote from the story:

“Rivera alone is responsible for a small forest of destroyed wood, so much so that hitters have been known to use their batting practice bats against him rather than risking their gamers.”

Another quote I liked:

“He can throw the classic cutter on the hands of a lefty or he can start it off the plate and cut it back to the outside corner, known as the backdoor cutter. Further, by varying the pressure from his fingertips, he can vary how much the ball cuts. And finally, he almost never misses his intended spot.”

This little nugget pretty much describes what goes through my mind as I watch him set up for each pitch. I can relate personally to Rivera as a pitcher with control. I can’t throw 90 MPH (probably around 80), and I can’t put it exactly where I want every pitch. But I had to have some control for me to get batters out in my summer league at a high success rate.

When I’m on the mound, I focus on location as much as anything. The mechanics have to come naturally. If not, then the pitch is going to ride right down Broadway. When I hit a spot, even if it is bouncing a curve in the dirt, it’s a great feeling. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be as precise as a single inch, but I do get to share the same joy that Rivera does when I watch him hit his spots.

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