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Clarkball Can of Corn

August 19, 2008 - Brian Ferry
I've been a fan of baseball (and baseball-like activities) for as long as I can remember. I like the game. I like the big things - home runs, inside-the-park homers, grand slams, walk-offs, strike outs, shutouts, no hitters, perfect games. I appreciate small ball - bunts, steals, hit-and-run, hitting behind the runner, going first to third, guys against whom teams can't put all their fielders on one side of the infield. I enjoy good defensive play - the hard stuff: diving catches, outfielders robbing hitters of home runs, off-balance throws, double plays; and the easy stuff: keeping a glove on the ground on a routine grounder, catching fly balls with two hands, hitting the cut-off man, pitchers covering first on grounders to the right side, All-Stars that try. I even take note of good baserunning. One thing that I really don't like is errors. Baserunning errors, fielding errors, throwing errors, wild pitches, doing something dumb that doesn't show up as an error in the book but allows a runner to reach base or advance along the path when they otherwise should not have. (Note: I'm not a big believer in the "passed ball." However, if I were to see one, I wouldn't like it.) One of the most basic plays in defensive baseball is catching a pop-up. It's not complicated - ball goes up, fielder gets to proper location, ball comes down landing in player's glove. As a former catcher, I had to add a couple steps - remove mask and throw it aside, turn back to infield (that adjusts for the spin of the ball). Those habits came back to me during my recent foray into the strange world of Clarkball. I was in the area normally played by a second-baseman (I believe I was nominally the first-baseman at the time (very short base paths)) when a batter launched a fly ball in my direction. A fly ball in Clarkball is a phenomenon. The low-density foam ball with its tough skin (Voit and RhinoSkin make these (about $12.99), not sure what brand is official at Thomski Park) doesn't seem to respond to gravity like most objects. It's certainly unlike the behavior of a base- or softball. So, I see this ball curving (swooping?) into the air as the massive spin counters the pull of the earth. My right hand shot to the brim of my (not officially sanctioned baseball style) hat. Flipped the hat off, threw it to the side. You don't see a lot of former infielders do that. I then turned my back on the infield (not a good idea when playing in front of the batter) and watched the ball soar into the air. I got a bead on it. It was about 20 feet into the outfield (almost to the short right field porch). I got under it. I don't know if the wind took over or if it was just one of the vagaries of Clarkball, but the ball then moved toward second base, my left and a little behind me. It was still pretty high in the air, so I moved. Unfortunately for me, the ball then decided to head outward. It landed about 10 feet away from me. That was a discouraging moment, but it was a fun event. And, I wasn't alone. There was a worse example of Clarkball behavior. One towering fly ball started out straight up the middle, drifted significantly to right, then cut hard back across second before landing close to shortstop. It was a strange thing to watch four athletic people (current and former ballplayers all), necks craned sharply skyward, running en masse, changing directions twice, trying to follow this ball. It landed clear of the pack by at least five feet. In baseball or softball, I'd call for a player who did something like that to get more familiar with the bench. In Clarkball, it was all part of the fun. Gentlemen, it was a wonderful event. I hope you continue or pass on this tradition so many others can enjoy the frustration of not getting close to that can of corn.


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