How to Homer
May 12, 2020 3:15 PM   Subscribe

Can a "regular" human hit a home run in a major league ballpark? A few years back, Sports Illustrated's (45-year-old writer) Michael McKnight decided to find out.
posted by maxwelton (34 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
D'oh!
posted by Splunge at 3:42 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


I feel this one, but 400 days of training? I guess a "normal" person can't.
posted by Literaryhero at 3:42 PM on May 12 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I was quite keen to see how he'd do for my own self-interest. But it basically means that unless I, as a 45 year old with no baseball experience since the 7th grade, tried to do this, I would need to rededicate a large portion of my life to batting practice. Good information - I am happy to live now not bothering to try it myself!
posted by Metro Gnome at 4:02 PM on May 12 [1 favorite]


I got a kick out of how he said he was not big, but not small, as if he's not the size of a true slugger.

He's actually a little bigger than Hank Aaron.
posted by martin q blank at 4:34 PM on May 12


Man, being a Dodger fan and doing it in Houston? Welp, guess Jesse Owen’s medals still count, even though he won them in Hitler’s Germany.

This is the most baseball-fan comment I can imagine. I’m doing the Ice-Cube-And-Chris-Tucker “Daaaamn” lean over here.
posted by mhoye at 4:42 PM on May 12 [8 favorites]


I was excited to see how he did, but I just can't trust the legitimacy of anything that happened in Minute Maid Park in 2017.
posted by miguelcervantes at 5:02 PM on May 12 [9 favorites]


Much to the delight of the kids, I can fairly often hit out of the ballpark at the school's little league field.

But that's a touch less than 200 feet with a 10 foot or so fence.
I can't imagine adding another 130 feet and who knows how much more height.

I'd definitely need to practice as much as this dude and even then I'm not entirely sure I'd make the distance.
posted by madajb at 5:15 PM on May 12


obvs if the Dodgers had let him hit his homer in la they’d have won

too bad the stros didn’t bring him back last year
posted by Huffy Puffy at 5:37 PM on May 12


The short porch in left at Minute Maid park? Pfffft!
posted by Grumpy old geek at 5:40 PM on May 12 [3 favorites]


too bad the stros didn’t bring him back last year

Didn't need him, with all the cheating and all.
posted by sideshow at 5:41 PM on May 12


I was fairly good at stuff, like cross-country skiing in the 70s, back when I lived in in the bush country in Canada. I was asked to try out for the Canadian Olympic team at the time. I never could figure out a stem christie thing, and face plants I didn't like. In the mid-80s, I might have been the best volleyball server around. My teacher was Karen Roy Rodgers, a member of the USA womens volleyball team (I wonder why that name sticks with me after all these years). At the highest level of any sport, you will not believe what can be done. An average person can not imagine.
posted by baegucb at 6:21 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


Neat article but sheesh the author is 6'1 and dunked a basketball in his 40s. Even with focused training he's a long way from average.

Stefan Fatsis wrote a decent book about trying out kicking for the Denver Broncos as a sportswriter which is a bit more relatable.
posted by zymil at 7:19 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


I'd guess even being able to get a bat onto the 70mph "meatball" pitches he was being thrown would be a feat for me.
posted by maxwelton at 7:27 PM on May 12


The real hero is the bulldog that took a shit on the field in Dodger Stadium! /Astrosfan
posted by lefty lucky cat at 8:36 PM on May 12


I was excited to see how he did, but I just can't trust the legitimacy of anything that happened in Minute Maid Park in 2017.

God, I was so excited for the Astros turn being a heel this year, and I realize and I haven't thought about them once in two months until reading this comment.
posted by MillMan at 9:18 PM on May 12


I used to golf a bit and one time a golfer joined our threesome to make it a foursome at the tougher of the muni courses we used to play in Long Beach. Skylinks, the one by the airport. He was several years younger than us and said he was taking a year off from everything else to give it one more try at making the PGA tour. He was tuning up for some tournaments in the minor league version of the PGA (the Nike Tour? Maybe it’s successor?), which he had been on right after college, but not then, and he still had to work his way into that and he had a ways to go, especially with his putting.

Anyway it was a complete joke. His drives were were just immense 300 yard bombs, usually in the middle of the fairway; he hit short irons from there onto the green, and was usually down in two, sometimes one. On the fives, which were long for duffers like us, he was on in two, every time. He finished the day a few strokes under, while our group hacked to the mid-90s, as usual.

He was a borderline minor league golfer and he was miles better than we were. We weren’t playing the same game even as we stood together on the same course. There’s no relationship between professional and amateur or hobbyist ability when it comes to sports and it’s probably true for everything else when amateurs and pros take a turn.
posted by notyou at 9:24 PM on May 12 [6 favorites]


I'd guess even being able to get a bat onto the 70mph "meatball" pitches he was being thrown would be a feat for me.

And for me as well. I’ve stepped into a batting cage that throws at 70mph and I wasn’t even close to any of the pitches. Thing is, those 70mph pitches don’t do much to help him other than making contact with the ball. Major league hitters have 60-90mph bat speed and that’s one factor in them being able to crank long bombs, but they’re also usually seeing pitches that are going a lot faster than 70. If you’re making contact with the sweet spot of the bat on a 92 mph fastball, the pitcher is supplying a lot of the power. Flamethrowing fastballers are amazing to watch but they also tend to give up home runs because they’re supplying the power. If you see a guy with elite bat speed catch up to a 98 mph fastball up in the zone, then there’d better be flight attendants in that baseball because it’s gonna be a long time before it lands. (I remember seeing Greg Colbrunn hit a 460 foot shot in Phoenix... it’s amazing to see a ball leave the bat like that, where you know it’s long gone before the pitcher even has a chance to turn around, when the outfielder just stands there and watches it fly.)
posted by azpenguin at 10:30 PM on May 12 [4 favorites]


How to Homer

I ... oughta see it?
posted by panama joe at 2:09 AM on May 13 [2 favorites]


My casual softball slugging years involved more a late career Cecil Fielder approach. Being 50 to 70 lbs heavier really helped my power. Not great for base running or fielding however.
posted by srboisvert at 3:23 AM on May 13


Nothing wrong with being a "three true outcomes" hitter.
posted by atoxyl at 5:08 AM on May 13


He was a borderline minor league golfer and he was miles better than we were. We weren’t playing the same game even as we stood together on the same course. There’s no relationship between professional and amateur or hobbyist ability when it comes to sports and it’s probably true for everything else when amateurs and pros take a turn.

I caddied for the pro-am day before the Canadian Open way back when. Calvin Peete was in my foursome and was having his hot year where he was in the top 10 ranked golfers on tour. It was pretty awesome being that close to the first really successful black golfer in the PGA. And because racism it was just an intimate foursome and four caddies and maybe a gallery of 2 or 3 people. He was really quite a dude and had a barefoot caddy but his drives were categorically different from other ordinary golfers I had seen. Even the good ones. It wasn't just that they were far longer. The trajectory was completely different. His drives whistled off the tee and flew like cruise missiles, straight and low to the ground, for the first third of the drive. Then they just started to climb like a normal person's drive would right off the tee. Those golf ball dimple aerodynamics? They worked hard for him. The rest of us might as well be hitting smooth balls. There was an epic par 5 that went down a valley and across a river that in all my years caddying the golfers all debated if they should try and get over in two or three shots. Calvin Peete tried to get over in one. He didn't quite make it (his barefoot caddy did enjoy going into the river to get the ball). I'd never seen anybody even come within a hundred and fifty yards of the river off the tee never mind plunk it in the Credit River.

Another athletic thing I have seen in person that was comparable was watching, from field level, Jessie Barfield throw a straight line rocket from deep right field to home plate.

Small little moments when mortals become like gods. So much of sports is despicable and distasteful but those moments are transcendent.
posted by srboisvert at 5:14 AM on May 13 [8 favorites]


You'll hear the same story when someone who had a cup of coffee in the pros drops in on a beer league hockey game. Even a guy who played in the ECHL (the bottom level minors for the NHL) ten years ago will absolutely blow past people who consider themselves good players.
posted by tavella at 9:29 AM on May 13


Now do cycling. Lol.
posted by klanawa at 9:34 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


The question really should be: Can a superstar basketball player hit the inside curve in baseball?
(Answer: nope).
posted by Chitownfats at 11:23 AM on May 13


Small little moments when mortals become like gods. So much of sports is despicable and distasteful but those moments are transcendent.

I once went drinking on Lincoln Avenue here in Chicago with a friend and his younger brother, said brother once having been a high school wrestling star. As we left the bar a bigger, older very drunk belligerent decided to come up behind the kid brother and wrap him in a bear hug. The kid just sort of gave a twitch twirl, just a slight move, and the drunk when frisbeeing 3 or 4 feet, landing on his stomach. You can keep your Bruce Lees and Chuck Norrises, never saw anything like that live and close.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:45 AM on May 13 [1 favorite]


Yeah, don't sleep on how physically different pro athletes are from normal people. My only brush with one was in high school, at a friend's pool party. A friend-of-a-friend was there, a guy who was on the practice squad of the New York Giants as an offensive tackle. By all accounts, I'm an enormous individual (at the time of this story, 6'5" and about 250 pounds, which is easily up in the 99th percentile of "big dude"), and standing next to this guy was like being six years old and standing next to your dad. This guy must have been 6'8" and 320 pounds, and he blotted out the sun. A buddy of mine ran the 400-meter on the track team and was on the varsity baseball team at our high school, and somehow ended up challenging this guy to a footrace, because why not? It was a bloodbath. No one that big should be able to move that fast; it was like watching an Italian supercar race the quarter-mile against a Sprinter van, except with the sizes reversed. At our urging, this guy then lifted the front end of a sedan 12 inches off the ground. The idea of facing off against him directly in some sort of athletic competition sounded about as appealing as running full-speed into a Jersey barrier. And this was a semi-pro athlete! Not quite good enough to make the big time! He was focusing on adding more upper-body mass so he could compete with the REAL pros.

Pro athletes are a different species than we are.
posted by Mayor West at 12:29 PM on May 13 [2 favorites]


It's a pretty humbling experience to have a pro step into your autocross car and then beat your best time by like 5-15 seconds. In a car that they have never driven before and if not set up relatively poorly at least not set up the way the pro would.
posted by Mitheral at 1:16 PM on May 13 [1 favorite]


You can keep your Bruce Lees and Chuck Norrises, never saw anything like that live and close.

Well, the Bruces and Chucks (along with the stunt workers getting beat up by them) could do the exact thing you saw, except it would have been actually pretty safe and no one was actually getting thrown so far they went " frisbeeing 3 or 4 feet, landing on his stomach", it was just an act that made it appear that way on film. Safely pretending to beat people up and have it look real is much harder than actually beating them up.
posted by sideshow at 1:56 PM on May 13


It's a pretty humbling experience to have a pro step into your autocross car and then beat your best time by like 5-15 seconds. In a car that they have never driven before and if not set up relatively poorly at least not set up the way the pro would.

Yeah, my father bought the car that had won its class in PCA autocross a couple years earlier, and us driving in the that thing was borderline pants shitting crazy. Well, at a club meet a few months later, the guy who was the actual driver of that car during its winning season took my me for a spin in it, and the only reason I knew were going fast was that my senses were so overwhelmed, extreme speed was the only explanation besides some sort of brain injury. I literally couldn't tell what was happening when the car was in motion.
posted by sideshow at 2:05 PM on May 13 [3 favorites]


When I was in HS I played a lot of playground basketball. Wasn't the best, but hey, I wasn't bad either, and I sure as hell could play defense. In a summer camp one of the counselors was a player on the Arizona women's basketball team. Of course we all wanted to play against her, see how we measured up, we all thought we would do better than we did...

...holy hell she was GOOD. I mean jaw-dropping long distance bombs one after another, explosive dribbles that left you in the dust, always in the right place around the rim, and good luck scoring against her. I've never played against someone who can pull up and shoot that fast.

Fast forward to this spring and I went to see the Arizona women play in the NIT championship game. I noticed a player on the opposing team. She was black, maybe 5'6, and probably 120 lbs. I smiled at the thought that she might go to pickup games sometimes and just absolutely smoke unsuspecting guys.
posted by azpenguin at 5:05 PM on May 13


Previously: I’m a WNBA player. Men won’t stop challenging me to play one-on-one. In which I make the same comment that I did here. Apparently I've run out of unique things to say.

Previously sort of related: Why Co-Ed Sports Leagues Are Never Really Co-Ed
posted by Mitheral at 7:13 PM on May 13


Someone asked about cycling. I’ve written about this here before, but because cycling is so data-driven, your can know exactly how you stack up against everybody else by looking at power data and in particular power to weight data — watts per kilo.

I’m about as serious as you get short of actually racing. I can put out 4 W/kilo for, like, a couple minutes TOPS.

A local world tour pro I have social overlap with (Lawson Craddock) can do 4+ W/kilo for HOURS.
posted by uberchet at 9:20 AM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I rode in a local Gran Fondo with Ryder Hesjedal. It's just nonsense what he could do, even relative to the continental-level pros. There's no way, in this universe or any other, that "wanting it bad enough" could yield those kinds of gains.

The real surprise, though, was Trevor Linden (of the Canucks). He had a full 2" and 40lbs on me (and 2" and 80lbs on Ryder) and still beat me up the big hill. All pro athletes are superhuman in some capacity, and sometimes a bit of it is transferable.
posted by klanawa at 12:29 PM on May 16 [1 favorite]


I ... oughta see it?

One of the best low key comments I’ve ever seen, here or anywhere. So much so that I’m reluctant to even point it out. Well played.
posted by mhoye at 8:16 PM on May 21 [1 favorite]


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