Here’s a quick lesson on how to throw a wicked changeup.
Have someone step on your pitching hand and break the index finger.
Use the mangled digit to put unusual spin on the ball.
Voila! It’s that simple.
Or at least it is for PawSox reliever Marcus McBeth.
(photos courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
Marcus began his pro baseball career as an outfielder in the Oakland Athletics organization. He was playing centerfield in 2003 when an opponent hit a pop-up that caused McBeth and two teammates to converge. Marcus tried to make a diving catch and a teammate stepped on the index finger of his right hand and shattered it.
McBeth missed the last six weeks of the ’03 season and was unable to play for eight months. One doctor told him he might never be able to throw a baseball again and to this day he cannot straighten that finger.
And it might have saved his career.
Marcus converted from outfielder to pitcher in 2005 and believe it or not, the broken finger is the key to his devastating changeup. When Marcus grips the ball for that pitch, the permanently bent knuckle on his right index finger presses tightly on the side of the ball. McBeth doesn’t have to do anything else – he just throws the ball as hard as he can and it floats to the plate 10-15 mph slower than his fastball with movement.
His “Bugs Bunny” changeup is helping Marcus post sensational numbers in 2009 – he’s 2-0 with 3 saves and a 2.00 ERA. International League hitters are only hitting .160 against him.
And now you know why.
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I had the opportunity to golf with pitcher Charlie Zink recently and witnessed a very amusing moment. About midway through our round, a groundskeeper pulled up in a golf cart holding a baseball and asked Charlie to show him how to throw a knuckleball.
Charlie kindly obliged and the young man happily went back to work.
Zink, by the way, is an exceptional golfer who shot a 74 from the back tees the day we played.
He’s also had two holes-in-one – the first one when he was 11-years-old and the second one when he was 12-years-old.
Charlie hasn’t had another ace in the last 17 years, but there is a nice thing about having them at such an early age – you’re not expected to buy a drink for everyone at the 19th hole.
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After calling the first two games of the Syracuse series on Cox Sports TV, I’ll be back on the radio with Steve Hyder on Monday night for a 7:05 game against the Chiefs. We have a good pitching matchup to look forward to as Michael Bowden (3-4, 3.11) faces Syracuse’s ace J.D. Martin (8-2, 2.31). I hope you’ll join us for the radio call beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50.
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