Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ballet and Baseball

 baseball-pitcher picture in black and white

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who move through it with grace and those who don't.

I'm a natural born klutz. I believe I may be the only preschooler in history to have flunked out of tiny tot ballet. As a result of being, shall we say, somewhat coordination-challenged, I have had more than my fair share of weird injuries. If I can drop it, fall off of it or trip over it, I will.

For example, on a family camping trip when I was about eight, my dad took us fishing. We couldn't possibly fish close to our campsite, because clearly the good spot was through the woods on a narrow path that included crossing a creek on a log. When we arrived, my dad set up my pole with a lure. Before casting off, I leaned the pole against my shoulder while I slapped at the mosquitoes that also thought this was a good spot. During one slap, I managed to catch the lure between my palm and my arm, driving the barb of the hook deep into my hand.

Poor dad threw me over his shoulder and carried me all the way back to the campsite. A helpful ranger informed him that all he had to do was push the hook through so the barb would poke my skin a second time, cut the barb off and pull the hook back out the other way. My dad turned sheet white, mumbled something about how he couldn't mutilate his baby, and drove me some sixty miles to the nearest hospital. We waited through the results of a bad car crash before the ER staff could help me, at which point they numbed up my hand a little and did exactly what the ranger had suggested.

More recently, I was walking with my foot half on the sidewalk and half on the grass. In a complicated choreography, usually attempted only by the most accomplished prima ballerinas, I managed to fall off the sidewalk and into a cast. "Yep, yep, there it is," said the ortho guy, pointing to a small fracture on my x-ray. This time: six weeks in a boot, followed by months of physical therapy. (Hey, at least the therapist was cute, and the foot massages were fabulous.)

As you can tell, my body does not travel nimbly through space — at least not on land. I must have been a sea creature in a former life, for my body in water moves and reacts in ways that make me feel graceful and in control. The only thing that can be said about my land-based performance is that I have good posture.

I tell you these tales of woe by way of explanation for my blog's dry spell. A few weeks ago, I had a fight with a piece of Corning Ware and lost. The casserole slipped, and in my clumsy effort to save it, it broke into a few sharp pieces, slicing into the base of my left pinky. I knew it was bad; several hours in the ER and a consult with the ortho guys confirmed it: I had severed one of the pinky's two arteries and a branch of the ulnar nerve. While I could feel the pain of the cut, I could not feel the outside half of the finger.

So, they stitched me up and sent me to the hand surgeon, who did his thing a week later. Fortunately, I'm right handed, but now even more clumsy, between the pain and the nerve damage. Though my chances for a full recovery are excellent, it will take eight months to a year before I get all the feeling back in that finger. It seems nerves get very crabby when you slice and dice them. The worst part is an annoying pins and needles sensation, and vastly reduced typing speeds — a serious handicap for a writer.

Now for the grace and a little bit of baseball. In the '80s, a guy named Jim Abbott went to The University of Michigan (my alma mater) on a baseball scholarship. Jim was born without a right hand. I had the thrill of seeing him pitch once — he was a vision of fluidity and athleticism. Here's how his official Website describes his style:

"On the mound, Abbott wore a right-hander's fielder's glove at the end of his right arm. While completing his follow-through after delivering a pitch, he rapidly switched the glove to his left hand so he could handle any balls hit back to him." (Click here for a video clip of Jim in action.)

This entire operation happened in a matter of seconds. He knew where every part of his body was in space at all times. Abbott went on to play for the Yankees (but we won't hold that against him), where he had a winning rookie season. He also played for the US in the 1988 Summer Olympics, won myriad awards and even pitched a no-hitter for the Yanks in '93.

My question is, can he type more than 100 words per minute? Jim, if you can, I could use some help over the next 8-12 months.

Any other klutzes out there? Do you athletes and dancers want to weigh in? Click here to leave a comment or email me at 2KoPeople@gmail.com.

Photo by: Pointe by binababy12 via Baseball photo by: paintlady 101 via webshots.com.

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