The sport that I chose to take part in each week is baseball. I chose to participate in this sport through the batting cages because it was a little difficult to have a pickup game each week that demands 18 players. Prior to this class I was already going to the batting cages but strictly for the softball pitching machine. When I go to the batting cages I take my friend Alexa most of the time. We each get about 5 rounds and we alternate between each round. Each round is about 30 pitches so in total we take about 150 swings a week. Because hitting takes a toll on your upper body and legs we only go once a week.
When it comes to our attire at the batting cages, the specificity on what we wear is not as important. We are only dealing with hitting so as long as we are comfortable then what we wear does not really matter. I either wear sweats or basketball shorts and a t-shirt. Since there is no running involved at the batting cages, cleats are not required so we always wear regular running shoes. Even though you are in the same exact spot inevitably you still want to dress comfortable because you are still making sudden movements while you are hitting. Wearing jeans would definitely not be a good idea because the jeans would restrict you from taking your stride.
From the time I first adjusted from a softball pitching machine to a baseball pitching machine I noticed that my frustration level has significantly dropped. I thought that because I played softball then baseball would be easy but I was wrong. Hitting a baseball and hitting a softball still has its differences. I played softball since I was young so it was hard to switch up my routine swing to accommodate hitting from a baseball pitching machine. Because a baseball is smaller than a softball the strike zone had become wider so I had to cover more ground on the plate. My stance switched from taking long strides to short quick strides.
This is a diagram of the differences in my stances. In the softball stance my legs are pretty wide and once I end my stride after swinging, my left foot is slightly outside the batter’s box. In baseball I had to adjust to a shorter stance because the ball was coming to the plate much faster than in softball. Not only did I have to change up my stance but also my hand-eye coordination. I had to react much faster with the baseball pitching machine. It took a while for the adjustments to follow through which resulted in a lot of strike outs and headaches. In this adjustment period I also had to change the type of bat I would regularly use for softball. Softball bats are longer and have a slimmer barrel than baseball bats. Because baseball bats have wider barrels they are much heavier than softball bats. Here is an image to show the differences:
(Top bat is for baseball and the bottom bat is for softball) (acs.psu.edu)
Besides the differences that I found between baseball and softball I realized about the type of athlete that I am. Thinking that switching from a softball pitching machine to a baseball pitching machine would be easy is where I was wrong. I had very high expectations of being able to hit good off a baseball pitching machine but the reality was different. I would get really angry and those emotions would transcend into the rest of my day. This reminded me of the sport girl that was defined in the Heywood article. A sport girl is one whose competitiveness not only happens on the field but also in their daily lives, she is also someone that internalizes and blames her failures on herself. The characteristics of a sport girl were apparent in my actions especially when I had an off day at the batting cages. I do feel like being a female athlete we have to prove ourselves especially in the baseball world. The type of female athlete that the Heywood article analyzed definitely is still relevant now a days.
Going back to my experience in the batting cages I noticed that I am in my head a lot. What I mean by being in my head is that it is very mental being in the batters box. I count how many seconds it takes for the ball to cross the plate when it is thrown from the pitching machine. Once I have a count then I know when I should start my stride and swing. I have this habit of touching each corner of the plate with the end of the bat and if I do not do that then my whole swing is thrown off. I have to mentally prepare myself to take the pitch because if that is not done then my confidence drops. No matter how slow the ball is moving, if my ritual was not properly done then it throws my game off. Besides that, I noticed that every time I step into the cage the first five pitches are always bad swings. After those five swings I get into a routine and start hitting good. I always have a goal of aiming towards the fence but that only happens ever so often. At first I was not a fan of the baseball pitching machine but I have grown to like it, it just took some adjusting.
Heywood, Leslie. “Producing girls: Empire, Sport, and the Neoliberal Body” in Physical Culture, Power, and the Body, London: Routledge, 2007, 101-120.
Russell, Daniel A. “How are baseball bats and softball bats different?” WEB. February 10, 2014. http://www.acs.psu.edu/drussell/bats/baseball-softball.html