- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Perhaps he meant lunging. But then I might just as well have been lying on a chaise longue, criticizing Iron Mike's control.
"The first thing you have to try to do," said Paul, "is belly-button. Then you've got to really block when you block. You're hitting the bottom half of the ball and you should be trying to hit the top half. You got to wait for the ball to get right up to the plate and you got to pop those wrists when you swing. You're not doing any of those things. That's why you're lounging at the ball."
Some of Iron Mike's pitches were going over my head as well as over the plate. "Now we'll take up breathing," Paul added, "as soon as I fix this thing."
Breathing I was relatively familiar with, so I decided to go along with the rest, and resumed my position at the plate while Paul worked on Iron Mike with a pair of pliers. "Now, wait for that ball to get right over the plate," he said. "Then belly-button. Get your stomach out in front as fast as you can, and that means you can't step first, then turn. It's all one movement. Snap your hips around and the bat will follow up naturally."
The crack of the wood sounded so good that I thought my hip must have popped out of place. The ball whistled past Iron Mike. It got no reaction from the machine. But it pleased Paul, who said, "That's what you call 'belly button.' "
"I guess I never could stomach those pitches before, Paul," I said happily.
My pun whistled by his ears, and he proceeded. The next pitch was at my head. Iron Mike hasn't much of a sense of humor either. "When you swing at the ball," Waner went on, "try hitting down on the ball, right through it, like. When you hit the top half of the ball, she'll rip through the infield like a scared rabbit. You won't be popping the ball up, or hitting those easy fly balls."
"I thought a hitter was supposed to keep the bat level when he swung, Paul."
"Well, that's what they say, because that's what it looks like, but it's just an optical illusion. What you do is roll your wrists so you can cut into the top of the ball, so you can't have the bat level, really. When you see the ball right there"—he pointed to a spot two feet in front of him, belt high, just ahead of his front hip—"you move. Slack that hip, snap that belly button around, cut down on the top of the ball, and watch her go."
I said the timing was the tough part, waiting for the ball till it got 'right there.'