The Anatomy of the Curveball

By Marcy Barthelette

You are my shelter and my shield — I wait for your promise. Psalm 119:114 (CEB)

“Batter up!” The plate umpire shouts his command indicating that it’s time for play to commence. The batter takes a couple of practice swings. The pitcher leans in toward the catcher to pick up the signaled pitch and everyone in the stadium feels the electricity in the air. The first pitch is a fastball, right over the plate. The umpire calls a strike. Next comes a ball followed by a foul tip. Two more pitches fly a little outside the strike zone and the count is 3-2. The pitcher takes his time, the catcher changes the call at the last moment. The ball is released the batter swings. “Strike three, you’re out!” The dreaded curveball. It looked so perfect flying toward the plate, headed right for the strike zone, but then it curved to the outside and caught the batter swinging hard.

Baseball, America’s pastime. The passion begins with starry-eyed little boys dreaming of the big leagues and often remains a passion even when we’re past the time when dreams become reality, but we can still be entertained by the big leaguers of today and the players of tomorrow.

My husband has been a lifelong baseball fan, from childhood pick-up games when each boy in the neighborhood brought whatever equipment he had to cheer the Boston Red Sox on the radio. Living in Providence, RI, he was just a stone’s throw from Fenway Park and though he only made a couple of trips to the stadium with a city recreation program, he faithfully followed his team through victory and defeat. He still likes to follow their progress but he has also added the St. Louis Cardinals and the KC Royals to his list of favorite teams. And he has a grandson to keep up with which gets interesting because said grandson lives in Austin, TX, but the wonder of electronics brings the sounds and animation of baseball to our living room for Grandpa to enjoy. Quinn is fourteen now and has been playing the game since T-Ball days. To say he loves it would be an understatement … he lives baseball! Quinn plays competitive club ball, some in Austin and a lot on the road. It has been a family affair for years. His older brother umpires, Dad is a sometimes coach, and Mom leads the cheering section.  

Quinn is pretty talented. He excels in three positions, shortstop, catcher, and pitcher. He understands the relationship between pitching and catching from both sides of the plate, the psychology of calling plays, and he knows what’s happening on the field at all times. He is blessed with another strength as well, he’s a solid hitter. I’m sure that comes from so many hours spent in the pitching and catching positions. He studies the opposing batters well and has an innate sense of when it’s time to throw a curveball. The nature of the pitch is to throw the batter off, make him go for a pitch that, for all the world looks like a perfect pitch to hit, but dips at the last second when the swing has already started and can’t be held back. Maybe he’ll strike out or maybe he’ll connect with the ball but foul off to one side or the other. It doesn’t matter as long as the contact doesn’t produce a fair hit. And the beauty of the curveball is that all the batters will be wondering what’s coming next.

Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly. Robert F. Kennedy   

Scientists believe that the effectiveness of the curveball has to do with air currents on the seams of the ball, strong on one side, absent on the other, causing the ball to make the intended arc. Sometimes life feels like a series of curveballs. We think we have everything figured out and suddenly some small factor shifts and we find ourselves swinging hard for something we just can’t reach. Disappointment and discouragement can set in and we may find ourselves traveling a questionable path. Then again, maybe there’s a really good reason for the curveball. Maybe God doesn’t think what we’re reaching toward is a good move for us. Perhaps the curveball is designed to protect us from a poor decision or dangerous distraction. It could be sending us on a detour around some danger lurking in our path. Have you ever wondered why some small emergency kept you from leaving home at the proposed time and later learned of a huge traffic problem right where you were planning to go, or worse yet, an accident that could have been you?

Life keeps throwing me stones. And I keep finding the diamonds. Ana Claudia Antunes, Author

Curveballs have a very specific purpose on the baseball field. They are, by design, intended to lure a batter into going for something he cannot reach or cannot hit effectively. The curveball can be an exceptional tool for the pitcher on the mound but can spell disaster for a batter at the plate.

In life, we all face a variety of curveballs, some may prevent us from disaster and some may lead us down a path we wouldn’t have chosen. The good news is, and there always is good news where God is concerned, when we make that decision to become a member of His team, we’ll be better able to recognize the curveball for what it is, a help or a hindrance. We won’t be easily deceived into following the path a deceitful curveball will inevitably lead us down. So, be patient, wait for the perfect pitch, and hit it out of the park. Heaven awaits!

Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.” . . . 2 Kings 6: 17 (NIV)

Leave a Reply