Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ichiro and the Mental Signals

So Ichiro lost a ball in the sun in yesterday's loss to the Angels, and there's definitely something surprising about a player as supernaturally talented as Ichiro doing something as human as letting a fly ball drop ten feet behind him. One can imagine, say, Benny Agbayani losing a fly ball. Ichiro, not so much.

But there is a wonderful humanity about Ichiro, as he displayed when talking to reporters, through an interpreter, about the fly. From the Seattle Times Mariners blog:

"The ball became the same color as the sky,'' he said, through interpreter Ken Barron. "So, I wasn't able to see it ... I was sending mental signals for the ball not to come my way, because during that time of day it's impossible for me to see the ball so I lacked mental signals. I lacked in that area.'

"Usually, I don't send mental signals," Ichiro replied. "So, because this is the first time, I thought, please don't come my way."
In case you aren't following, I think what Ichiro's trying to say is that he couldn't see the ball at all, so he was, essentially, praying that it wouldn't be hit to him. As the Times' Geoff Baker points out, "How many of us, at one point or another, stood out there in the outfield as kids just praying to some unseen force that the ball wouldn't be hit our way?" True enough.

It reminds me of a story from the 1980s Dodgers. Both Pedro Guerrero and Steve Sax were in a throwing funk (similar to the one Betancourt's in now). Tommy Lasorda, trying to solve the mental puzzle, asked Guerrero what he was thinking about about as the pitcher delivers the ball. Guerrero said "First I think, 'I hope they don't hit it to me.' Then I think `I hope they don't hit to Sax.'".

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