Why guys are delusional about baseball  

Long-suffering female companions of male baseball fans, this one's for you...

One night, after a big league ballgame, I was walking behind a young couple on their way to the parking lot while the male half of that couple explained that he was an expert on baseball and then went on to describe just what the manager of the home team had done wrong.

Three things stood out:

1. What he had to say about the manager was 100 percent dead wrong.

2. He was so drunk he was having a hard time finding his car, much less managing a big league baseball team.

3. The female half of the couple was not impressed.

On another occasion I listened to a Hollywood actor (as opposed to a Valdosta, Georgia actor) talk about baseball and his talent for playing the game. He was appropriately enough, talking on a talk show.

The actor will remain unnamed (OK, what the heck, it was Billy Bob Thornton) and he said he had once tried out for the Kansas City Royals as a pitcher. Billy Bob also said he was a “junkballer” and he was “pretty good.”

A couple things jumped out at me while Billy Bob tooted his own horn: it sounded like he attended an open tryout, which anyone can attend, and generally speaking teams aren’t looking for young “junkballers.” Teams are looking for kids that can make a radar gun burst into flames and once they can no longer do that, then those kids might become junkballers in the twilight of their careers.

It seemed to me that Billy Bob was overestimating his talent for the game, but if so, he has lots of company.

In my opinion, guys tend to say more stupid shit about baseball than all the other sports combined.

I came this close…

A friend once told me he thought he could have played in the big leagues, but he got a girl pregnant in high school and that ruined his career. I asked if scouts had showed up at his games and he said no, so I pointed out he wasn’t nearly as good as he thought.

If you’re really good, word gets around and pretty soon you’ll see guys with radar guns and clipboards sitting behind home plate. Secondly, if you can throw a baseball 98 mph you can get the entire pep squad, half their sisters and all their mothers pregnant and it won’t stop teams from signing you.

Pro athletes having sex with women is pretty much par for the course even when the sport isn’t golf.

So what is it about baseball that makes guys sit in the stands and tell their dates that had things gone differently, they probably could have played in the big leagues?

Unsurprisingly, I have a theory.

Size matters

Despite what you may have heard from women who tried to make you feel better, then laughed at you later when they told the story to their girlfriends, size matters.

Most guys will not watch an NBA or NFL game and think they could play at that level; in most cases, it’s clear they’re just not big enough.

Watching sports on TV can throw you off, but next time you see an NBA player argue with a referee – a regular-size person – note that the referee would be talking into the NBA’s players belt buckle if NBA players wore belts.

If you’re not tall you better be able to dribble and shoot like Steph Curry, who looks like a third-grader on an NBA court, but is actually 6’3”.

I once took a picture of an Oakland Raider – as I recall it was John Matuszak – because he was on one knee and was still as tall as the guy standing next to him holding the first down marker. If you ever get to stand among a bunch of pro football players, odds are you’ll feel like a toddler who just wandered into a herd of buffalo.

Basketball and football – for the most part – require size and lots of it.

Baseball, on the other hand, allows people of all sizes to play and succeed: Jose Altuve is 5’ 6” and Aaron Judge is 6’7”.

What makes big league baseball players exceptional – speed, hand-eye coordination, etc. – isn’t apparent from the upper deck, so guys who were “pretty good” in high school think they could walk out on the field and compete, or at least not embarrass themselves.

Those guys are wrong.

What happens when an average athlete faces a professional

Jerry Dipoto – current GM of the Seattle Mariners and former big league pitcher– used to work out in the same facility I used and would occasionally invite me to stand in against him. Jerry pitched for the Indians, Mets and Rockies, played for eight years and wound up with a career ERA of 4.05 – a solid major leaguer.

I was an above-average high school athlete as long as the sport was football and there was a 200-pound weight limit, but when facing Jerry, I struggled to even foul a ball off.

Later I got to face Jeff Montgomery in a Men’s Senior Baseball League – way after Monty’s prime as a closer for the Kansas City Royals – and remember getting maybe one ball in play. Jeff punched me out almost every time I faced him and it usually didn’t take more than three pitches.

Every time I’ve had the opportunity to be around professional ballplayers and try to do what they were doing – and I’ve had more opportunities than most – I got reminded of just how talented they were and just how talented I wasn’t.

Compared to most of the people walking the face of the earth, I’m an OK athlete. Good enough to be an All-Conference high school football player, advanced skier, decent skateboarder and a guy you’d probably want on your softball team.

But when compared to professional ballplayers, I suck.

Let’s say I could do 75 percent of what a big league ballplayer can do: throw 75 percent as hard, run 75 percent as fast and swing the bat with 75 percent of their power.

Go to an open tryout and you know what that 75 percent would get me? Cut before lunch; they wouldn’t want to waste a bologna sandwich on me. And the same thing would happen if I had 80, 85, 90 or 95 percent of a big leaguer’s talent.

Those guys are the best of the best and I’m not in that crowd.  

The truth hurts

I once had a big league scout tell me a story about sitting behind a guy who was telling his female companion that if he played in the big leagues, he would probably hit around .200.

After several innings of this, the scout couldn’t take it anymore so he leaned forward and said; “Dude, if you played in the big league you wouldn’t have any average because you wouldn’t be able to get the ball in play.”

A friend of mine covered the NBA and said you could take the worst player in the league – a guy fans bury for being lousy – put him in the best playground game in New York and everyone would go home thinking they saw the greatest basketball player that ever lived.

Put a pro against an amateur and it will look like a great white shark in a goldfish bowl.  

Big league baseball players are even better than we think and to believe we can compete with them is ludicrous…with one exception. As the attached video shows, I can get hit by a pitch with the best of them.

But other than the ability to stand still, I got nuthin’ to offer a a big league team.

So next time you go to a big league game, have a few beers and get the urge to tell the female next to you that you could have played at that level, do her a favor and bite your tongue.

You’re being delusional.