I tried calling people at the San Diego Padres' offices, but all I ever got was a damn machine and no call backs.
I had mentioned my interest of learning how to throw a curve to local high school coaches and, for the most part, they too thought it'd be a good idea, but I never got any of them to commit to teach me.
I then thought about our very own Imperial Valley College baseball team. I kind of know their No. 1 pitcher from this past season, Ricky Guzman, and I figured he'd probably be fine with doing this. I mean, what else could he possibly be doing? The season's been over for close to two months and the next season doesn't begin for at least another seven.
So I approached him about it and of course he agreed, like I said, I don't think he's too busy right about now.
We went out to the field Monday night and started talking about the proper way to throw a curve. He was dropping all kinds of knowledge on me and I was just like, "Huh?"
He was talking about the torque of my body and mechanics and bio-mechanics and all kinds of important information. What really threw me off was the whole, "bio-mechanics" thing. I don't know, the word "bio" always seems to throw me for a loop.
Anyway, so we started warming up a little and — I should let you know that I haven't been on a baseball field to actually play for more than a year — so I was a little off my first few tosses.
After getting a little warm he started showing me how to grip the ball. First you take the ball and hold it with your thumb and index and middle fingers. You keep your index and middle fingers together and have your thumb on the opposite side so your three digits are forming a C. And one of the most important things is not gripping the ball too tight.
You take your arm straight back, bring your non-throwing arm up a little to lead you, come over the top with the ball, not really over head and not putting your arm at a 90 degree angle, but kind of somewhere in between. While your arm is on its way back you bring up your lead leg and extend it forward for a stride while your arm is going forward. When your arm gets to about the same point as your head you start flipping your wrist as if you were unscrewing a light bulb and let the ball go through that space between your fingers and thumb.
Well, at first neither did I. I didn't even mention the things about my body's torque and bio-mechanics. The whole torque thing is kind of important though. Okay, the thing about that is while you're moving forward with your body, you have to kind of hold it back, so your body is working against itself. According to Rick, the more you can hold your body back the better the pitch will be.
So I worked on all the aforementioned things and at first it just wasn't working. If I was doing one thing right, I wasn't doing something else correct. And if I finally fixed that first problem, then the thing that initially worked went all out of whack. The motion was good, but the delivery wasn't. The stride was good, but my release needed work.
After about 10-15 pitches I finally had one that broke nicely. He said, "There ya go. Do it just like that again."
I thought, "How about we stop now so I can walk away with my head held high and go out on a good note." But I knew I had to keep at it, to improve my breaker.
So we kept at it and it was getting fairly decent. Every now and then I'd throw one about three feet above his head, but for the most part I kinda got it.
I finally got it all down and my next challenge was facing a batter.
Well low and behold Ricky's helping coach the Little League El Centro 11-12-year-old all-stars and one stuck around to watch my pitching display. Well, he actually had to stay because Ricky was his ride, but boy did he ever get a treat in watching my performance.
The kid's name was Mario Maldonado and he's Rick's cousin, I guess. So he took the role of batter and I threw a couple of pitches, but there was this one. I mean, it was "The One," the mother of all curves. My goal going into that little lesson was to throw something that could break two feet. Well, mission accomplished. I think that sucker broke about three feet.
Poor little Mario's knees buckled because he never knew what hit him. Well, it didn't actually hit him. I would've felt pretty bad if that happened, but his mind was boggled by my Pedro Martinez-like curve.
With my newfound mastery of the breaking ball I'm ready to face all challengers, no matter who.
Well, maybe not anybody, but at least any ol' 12-year-old.