If you’ve been around me when I’ve had a few drinks and we’re swapping stories from times long, long ago… this story will invariably come out:
“You know… I struck Matt Holiday out in high school… twice!”
“Who?” you might say!
If you don’t know, Matt Holiday is a professional baseball player who just the other day signed a $120 million contract good for seven years with the St. Louis Cardinals.
Hahahaha I struck you out you MLB multimillionaire jerk face! Okay… please don’t find out where I live and crush me.
One. Hundred. And. Twenty. MILLION!!! DOLLARS!!!
I haven’t done the math but I know for sure it doesn’t take him long to surpass my yearly salary in just a few plate appearances!
If it was only known how easy it is to strike this guy out… he’d be your friendly neighborhood trash man instead of the new, highly overpaid baseball superstar.
Allow me to take you back…
I was the starting pitcher for the Ponca City Wildcats in our home opener my senior year. Our opponent was our cross-town rivals: The Stillwater Pioneers.
Me about to get rocked…
Headlining the Stillwater Pioneers was the legend and three-sport star of Stillwater himself: Matt Holiday. We knew back then the kind of skills that Matt possessed seeing that every game we ever played against Stillwater there was some unknown face in the crowd holding a radar gun and scribbling notes in a binder emblazoned with some major league team’s logo. They were there to see Matt smash a monster home run or throw his 90 MPH fastball.
They weren’t there to see me throw…
Us lesser, more inept players whose future consisted of staring at a computer all day to earn money instead of playing for a legendary baseball team in front of millions of people… saw this as a chance to knock down the golden boy and steal some of his glory for ourselves.
It doesn’t take a genius to know that when you’re faced with a situation more challenging than usual… you up your game a little bit. Although, I always tended to perform better in non-pressure situations than one’s that required me to dig deep and perform in the face of embarrassment, fear and possibly… instant death.
Despite being naturally amped up because this was our first game in front of our home crowd… my adrenaline hit it’s peak when I saw Holiday step into the batters box after the first and second hitters grounded out.
Feeling good at my chances of at least getting out of the first inning unscathed… I threw my 82 MPH heat right down the middle… clearly a mistake on my part!
Luckily for me… his bat never left his shoulder.
“STRIKE ONE!” the umpire yelled.
I realized that I was INCREDIBLY lucky he didn’t swing at that because one of my infielders would have definitely been killed by a screaming line drive off his bat. I tried to be a little more accurate on the second fastball…. but I pretty much accidentally threw the same pitch a second time and it went into the exact same location.
Again, his bat never left his shoulder and I was left wondering, “What the hell is he looking for!?”
“STRIKE TWO!” the umpire screamed.
As my catcher threw the ball back to me I could see the scouts sitting behind the dugout with their radar guns and fancy notepads staring at me. I imagined them thinking, “Wow… maybe this kid has something!”
When in actual reality they were probably thinking, “I wonder what crappy places this one horse town has to eat.”
I stepped on the rubber and prepared my final pitch. The catcher flashed me two fingers which meant “curveball”.
Even though I’d been throwing the curveball for several years… I still didn’t have good control over it. I mainly only threw it when the count was working in my favor. In this instance I had the future superstar down in the count two strikes to no balls! I would have to throw four bad pitches to walk him. If this curveball didn’t work it would be okay… I still had three more pitches to waste trying to get him to swing.
I threw the curve. What materialized out of this pitch was probably the worst curveball I’d ever thrown. The minute it came out of my hand I knew it wasn’t right. Its trajectory would put it in the general vicinity of the last two fastballs I had thrown… only much slower and easier to track. This is known as a “hanging curveball”.
As the ball headed right for the future millionaire’s wheelhouse I imagined one of two things:
1. He would hit the ball and it would shatter my testes into a million unintelligible pieces, or
2. the ball would go down in history as being the furthest ball hit at our baseball field
Luckily for me, neither of those happened.
What I’m assuming happened was that I surprised him with such a tailor-made pitch to deposit somewhere between home plate and the planet Pluto… he wound up swinging with every ounce of strength he had in him… and completely missed.
Strike three. Inning over.
Unbelievably I managed to strike out Holliday in the third inning as well… but all the effort in keeping him hitless should have been evenly distributed throughout the whole lineup… as we lost our home opener that day 5-3. Although, I went 3 for 3 and pitched decently it wasn’t good enough for the win. I did succeed in keeping Matt Holiday off the base paths though.
When it was all over, I never got a call from the Colorado Rockies or the Oakland Athletics or even the Kansas City Royals.
Matt Holiday went on to be drafted by the Colorado Rockies, played in a world series, played briefly for the Oakland Athletics and eventually became a superstar who just agreed on the contract worth $120 million to play in St. Louis.
Oh yeah… I also beat up Albert Pujols in grade school…
If St. Louis only knew how easy Matt Holiday is to strike out… I wonder if they would have offered him so much money. If somehow it becomes common knowledge that the pitch sequence of “82 MPH fastball down the middle, 82 MPH fastball down the middle then slow, hanging curveball down the middle” is all it takes to strike this guy out… then they’re going to be pissed!!
Note to self: Call St. Louis Cardinals and have them pay me hush money. Then… move to Bahamas.
STILL DON’T BELIEVE ME? WANT PROOF? Well here you go:
Yeah… you can say it… I’m awesome.