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The Art of Fielding 1-10: Time Stops for Some Men

Going to college, being flummoxed by women, and making a play on every single goddam ball you can find.

Zachry Cozshander
Zachry Cozshander
Scott Boehm

There's something awfully Henry Skrimshander about Zach Cozart. Well, Skrim is built out of the classic late-80s shortstop mold that Chad Harbach watched: Vizquel, Ozzie, lesser stars like Dale Sveum and Greg Gagne. He can't hit a lick, but he can catch everything, thanks to the same damn glove he's had all his life. Henry Skrimshander makes plays like this. Nowhere near as interesting a player/personality as BP, but then again, he hardly needs to be. One of the rules in The Art of Fielding is to project calm throughout the diamond.

That said, Skrim doing a backflip in his first college practice is a bit rich.

The main discussion question for this week will be baseball-related. As we all know, there is no clock in baseball. Time is, in essence, meaningless. The only clock is outs, which we cannot simply give away. But even though we talk about pop times, speed to first, or whatever, we're not really interested in minutes and seconds on a baseball diamond.

Harbach hints at - and I will argue - that time is experienced differently by each baseball player. For a pitcher who just gave up a double and a single to put runners on the corners, things are going way too fast. For a guess-hitter expecting a fastball but staring at a curveball as his hips start to pivot, things are going way too slow. Outfielders get to liners at the speed of light, not sound, while some managers just sit and watch disaster unfold.

The greatest infielders live outside time. The book talks about Skrimshander moving towards balls based on how the batter drops his hands on a pitch; Skrim already knows what the batter is going to do before the batter has decided. He has a metis of what will happen when and how he can best deal with it that seemingly few people do. It's a joy to read and presumably a joy to watch. And it makes Skrimshander simply "Skrim", the slip of a player who can do no wrong.

Which fielders, do you think, stop time this way? Who has made you wonder at their Jedi-like ability to be where you least expect them, but desperately want them?

Other questions for the week:

  1. Early on, we follow Skrimshander on a bus out of the Dakotas and into Wisconsin, and are as confused as him by what he finds. Do you remember your first day in college, or first time living on your own? Any remarkable memories?
  2. The girls of Westish are "leggy, stunning, and well-versed in ancient history"? Is there anything more intimidtating in the world than an upperclassperson when you're a freshperson?
  3. "Life unfolding within itself" --> very clever, or hoity-toity?
  4. Is Phumber Hall a way for Mr. Harbach to pay his respects to Phillip Humber?
  5. Am I bad for not liking Owen's character? I know, I know, the unpleasantness, but he just kind of reminds me of every achingly lonely overread person, homosexual or not, that I met freshman year. Am I being too harsh on the character? Am I just upset because he reminds me of me?
  6. Are you a river person or a lake person?
  7. Last week, MR_P said "I dont know, who knows where people come from, isn’t it really more about where we end up." Is this true? I think that where you come from, even if you don't actually like it, makes a huge impact on the kind of person you are. Where you end up is a bit out of your hands (whether you believe in luck or a cruel, Calvinist, deterministic world. I'm on the latter) as well, but the "From/Going" are quite related, no? What do you think about MR_P's quip?

As for people who e-mailed Red Reporter your addresses: I just found out where your e-mails went. I'm not RR's e-mail guy usually, and apparently GMail's way to tell you if an e-mail is important or not doesn't match up at all with what I think are important e-mails. So I'll get this all solved up today. My apologies; hopefully you can get the books by New Year's. I am truly really, really, sorry about this. GMail just outfoxed me is all.