It’s All about Anticipation

Ryan Howard and Rafael Nadal don’t have quicker reflexes than you do. They hit the fastest pitches and return the hardest serves because they can see the future.

  1. Barry Bonds went down on three pitches, didn’t even swing. Albert Pujols and Mike Piazza couldn’t make contact. Paul Lo Duca, Larry Walker, Richie Sexson, Dmitri Young: K, K, K, K. A-Rod took the wise course and decided not to even step into the box. The best any big leaguer fared against Jennie Finch, the 6’1” former softball ace who took on baseball players in 2005 on Fox’s This Week in Baseball, was Sean Casey’s dink to the right side.

    Coming from 43 feet away in the upper-60-mph range, Finch’s heater takes about the same time to get to the plate as a mid-90s major league fastball. Nothing unusual for the world’s greatest hitters in terms of speed. And yet big league players have a history of feckless whiffing, against underhand pitchers.

    Beginning in the 1940s, softball pitcher Eddie Feigner and his three position players, known as The King and His Court, barnstormed the country and showed up baseball players by winning four against nine. In a 1964 exhibition at Dodger Stadium, Feigner—the Meadowlark Lemon of the team, hiding the ball and joking with the audience—struck out Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, Brooks Robinson, Maury Wills, Harmon Killebrew and Roberto Clemente … in a row.

    Besides throwing between his legs or blindfolded, both of which he did with surgical accuracy, Feigner had another gambit: He usually steered clear of softball players. In fact he’d sooner face a Hall of Fame—bound baseball player than the local beer league boys. “There were other softball...