Random Thoughts from an Uppity Negro

Finding Your Wheelhouse

New York Yankees vs. Kansas City Royals

This was a subject I had been thinking about doing for a while, but blogging is really a task, and I’d much rather sit around and watch the television in my absolute free time–which really for the most part is non-existent, I just make what I have free.  So, I’ve been rather remiss getting around to blogging for blogging’s sake, not to mention writing about the daily foibles of AIG, Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, debating whether or not President Barack Obama has lived up to his promises or are some of us really having buyer’s remorse.

So, as we in the black community finally place our “I Hate Tavis Smiley” buttons onto our cork boards in kitchen, I feel compelled to write the following about wheelhouses.

I’m not sure how many baseball fans I have out there reading this, but if you are, you probably know where I’m going with this.

Little known uppity Negro fact: I played one season of baseball at a DIII school, and if I told you our record I’d cry.  But nonetheless, we sucked horribly.  But it was a good experience, and it put me on a team sport.  We had a few highlights such as our first baseman and short stop who were relatively decent and probably could’ve gotten a scholarship to another school if they had wanted to.  But, we got murdered when we played the other white schools in our conference because these were small, heavily funded white liberal arts colleges with beaucoup money with more than one team–yes, for one school we played their “B team” which had, 24 players–count ‘em–to our twelve.  We barely qualified for a team.  I remember playing the other two black schools, not in our conference, Miles out of Alabama and Rust College out of Mississippi and we had a much better and evenly matched game.

I was a horrible outfielder, I think it was more lack of confidence than anything.  We were horrible at the whole camaraderie; we clowned and joked the whole time with “yo mama” jokes on the bus and did very little team uplifting.  We never did anything as a team more or less, never hit the weight room together.  I mean we came to practice, but meh…we were a better intramural team than an actual team.  Suffice it to say, I wasn’t a bad hitter.

The problem as I remember it was that we really didn’t have a pitcher on our team.  You know after about that sixth inning of maybe 80 pitches, you need to put up your closer–HA!  We really didn’t have one.  As a result, I developed a relatively bad eye for watching the ball.  It’s easy enough to watch the ball coming at 40 mph and rockin’ the hell out of it from the coaches hand.  Its easy enough to have a ball tossed at you just to work on your swing in the basement of the gym because we had to share the field with a track team and other kinds of foolishness.  It got a bit harder to watch the ball come out of a pitching machine at closer to 80 or 90, but still, you knew exactly where the ball was coming out of–and the ball was always going to go to the exact same spot—or the wheelhouse.

I remember when one of the guys was warming me up pitching at me and I rocked the hell out of a ball, he said “I musta put the ball in your wheelhouse.”  

I remember that day and I just remember that I was kinda in the zone and the coach was standing there with his usual look of frustration when he said “Wish you’d swing like that in a game.”  Now I had never heard that phrase before in my life, but from normal context clues and great inference, it wasn’t hard to figure out what he meant by that.  Then when I started paying attention to ESPN and what not, it’s relatively common jargon in baseball.  

For those of you still lost, Urban Dictionary puts the definition as:

In baseball this is the part of an individual’s swinging range in which as a hitter they can make the best contact with the ball. If a pitch is right in your wheelhouse it is right where you want it, in the spot where you have the best chance of hitting it well. 

The term is also often used to explain something that falls into a person’s area of expertise.

It’s that fat part of the bat that makes the ball feel more like hard squish as opposed to the cracking ding sound.  So at practice, when it was my turn for hitting rotation from the pitching machine, they knew to go deep out into left field because I was going to smash a line drive out that way, just about to the same spot, every time. 

Now granted my wheelhouse is not the same wheelhouse as, oh let’s say A-Rod or Manny Ramirez.  Clearly.  But nonetheless all of the opposing teams’ pitchers’ know just where that sweet spot is for powerhouse hitters and try their best NOT pitch it right there because of their bat comes in contact with the ball, it’s a wrap.

So just how do you deal with the crap life sends your way?  Do you just haphazardly stand at the plate hoping the opposition throws balls and by the grace of God you make it on base?  Or do you train for the event finding your own wheelhouse and when the opposition is throwing a strike, thinking it’s going to be a count against you, all you’re able to do is see the pitch coming, and know where the ball’s going to break and knock the hell out of it!

Now at first glance, swinging in your wheelhouse sounds boring and predictable, but if you really step back and look at it, you realise the genius of it’s design.  Even though it’s the same swing and the ball may go to the same place–it’s uniquely your swing and your spot.  No one else swings like you do, no one else is going to hit the ball quite like you.  But realise, your wheelhouse is YOUR sure fire way of getting on base.

Another lesson I learned from baseball is that every once in a while, the pitcher throws a change-up, and only the seasoned players have the eyes to watch where the ball is going.  Trust me, I wasn’t one of them.  But for those that can see where the ball is going, they can adjust their swing to match where the ball is going, and still rock the hell out of the ball into center field.  

It’s almost the equivalent of a mid-air dunk (cuz I’m sure I’ve lost a good chunk of my readers using baseball analogies, lol).

A change-up mid air MJ style.  After assessing the current situation and realizing that what had been initially planned wasn’t going to work, so, you adjusted and still got the basket.  The amazing thing is that it comes off as all the more beautiful of a hit, or a dunk, because masters at the sport make the change effortlessly.

So, hopefully someone reading this’ll decide to find their own wheelhouse in life and work it.  Work it till the wheels fall off.  Do it, do it, do it till you’re satisfied–whatever it is.  And be good at it.  Swinging in your wheelhouse is just a like a preacher who’s gotten to the end of his sermon and all of a sudden, puts her or his foot on the brake.  After raising the crowd up to a fevered pitch, then dropping all the way back down, then they slide into their hoop and by the time they’re done, they’ve killed the church running all around the pulpit doing all kinds of sick runs with their voice.  But the joy of watching a good preacher that does that is watching the preacher get happy about what they’re preaching.   It’s the same with operating in your wheelhouse; it’s a zone that you get into that you KNOW that you doing it, and doing it well!

It’s my wish that this has helped out someone.

Any comments and concerns or other random life analogies that hit you, feel free to share them in the comment box down below.

Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL

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3 thoughts on “Finding Your Wheelhouse

  1. Wonderful writing…you took me back to the baseball field and made me consider operating in my wheelhouse and allowing others to operate in their own.

    Your post made me consider the effort and practice that it took to find my own wheelhouse and to know and appreciate that it’s mine alone.

    Thanks Uppity for the reflection that this evoked for me.

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