Thursday, July 28, 2005


July 28th, 2001

Astros play at Pirates

I remember this game quite clearly, despite only having seen one at-bat, probably on SportsCenter or Baseball Tonight or something similar. That one at-bat however, served as a perfect example of the incredible skills Major League players possess, on both sides of the ball, and by just how much they are in another world from the rest of us.

The Astros entered the ninth leading 8-2 but the Pirates managed to pull it to 8-5 and had the bases loaded and their best hitter, Brian Giles, at the plate. Pitching for the Astros was their ace closer Billy Wagner. Wagner is a lefty, and while he's generally listed a 5'11", 200 pounds that's probably adding a couple of inches and a score of pounds. I'm also a lefty, and might realistically be listed at 5'11", 200 pounds. The notable difference between Wagner and me then, is that while I struggle to break seventy on a radar gun at carnivals, Wagner has been clocked as high as 102 (that looks more impressive written out in numbers than words) and consistently throws in the ninety-six to one hundred range. His second pitch is usually listed as a slider (or sometimes curveball) but by his own admission Wagner usually throws ninety-five percent fastballs.

Back to the game meanwhile, and the man facing Wagner. Giles is also a lefty, like me, and listed at 5'10", 195. That's a little short and more than a little light for me, but I could probably pass as such. Of course, that's where the resemblance between Giles and me ends. While I often struggled to hit high school pitching, Giles is a two-time All Star and was second in the league in OPS in 2002.

So here you had two men who were, more or less, the same physical size as I, but who had natural talents obviously so beyond what I (and millions of others) can possibly imagine. Wagner with his amazing heat, Giles with his bat speed and power. Wagner threw and Giles rocketed a home run for a game winning, walk-off two out Grand Slam. For that game then, Giles' talents triumphed over Wagner's. But watching the at-bat was just another reminder that those talents exist on a plane so far above what any of us can imagine.

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