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"That's how I will teach my own son someday," Ed decided.
And he did. On the grassy area on the side of the family house in Mystic, the father would pace off the appropriate distance for the boy's age—45 feet when he was seven, 50 feet when he was nine, 60 feet six inches by 13. Ed would sit on a ball bucket, a concession to the worn knees of a former athlete, and catch his son's pitches. Always he stressed the swing of his son's right arm.
"Bring it down ... take it back ... show it to second base ... then go!"
The same words, the same arm swing ... over and over and over, so much so that even when the boy played shortstop he threw with that same long, syrupy loop.
This is what the son heard most from his father: "When you keep your arm swing, nobody's better. Nobody's better!"
Many years later, in 2012, Ed and Jackie were sitting in the stands at Coca-Cola Field in Buffalo. The little boy from behind the backstop was a Triple A pitcher in the Mets' system, struggling with an adversity that seems unthinkable now. Neither his first draft, in '07, nor his college career had turned out as he expected. He was playing catch in the outfield in Buffalo when suddenly Ed elbowed Jackie with excitement. "Look!" he said. "There it is!"
The perfect arm swing. Musculature and poor habits had muted it from time to time, but Ed recognized from a simple warmup that it was again in full bloom. It was as if that beautiful, cascading arc had transported father and son back to the side of the house in Mystic.
"It's been there pretty much since that day," Ed says. "I asked him the other day about it. I said, 'Your arm swing is perfect. You can feel that now, right?' He goes, 'Yep.' To me, as a coach, if you can get to a point where your player can coach himself, without someone reminding him, that's the best part."
IN AN era dominated by the power pitcher, Matt Harvey has the ferocity of stuff and of will to rise above all of them, which is the express intention of Ed and Jackie's son. Beneath the technical beauty of his homeschooled mechanics beats the heart of a born pitcher, though his repertoire suggests he was born to a previous generation. Harvey, 24, dismisses the modern conventions of cutting, sinking and running the ball through "front doors" and "back doors"—the popular subterfuge of placing pitches with late movement on the edges of the plate. He favors blunt, old-school hardball. Harvey's signature pitch is a 97-mph blowtorch of a fastball at the top of the strike zone. He also throws a roundhouse 1-to-7 curveball, a changeup that seems to float into the ether and a tight, hard slider that reaches 92. Says Mets first baseman Ike Davis, "Some guys get to first base and tell me they think his changeup might be his best pitch—from a guy who throws 98."
Harvey throws all four of his pitches with regularity, each of them at least 10% of the time. According to Fangraphs.com, only three other active power pitchers (average fastball velocity greater than 92 mph) throw four pitches with such frequency: David Price, Yu Darvish and James Shields. But none of them throw as hard as Harvey, who averages 95.0 mph on his fastball.