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After much deliberation and study of all the world’s pressing issues, I’ve decided that the one thing I most want to comment on is the use of the designated hitter by baseball’s American League.

OK, for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the short version. In 1973, pitchers dominated hitters in baseball. The American League decided to try to turn the tide back to the offense by adding an additional hitter to team’s lineups and removing traditionally the worst hitter on the team, the pitcher.

Pitching is a skill that requires hours and hours of work, study, and practice to perfect. Hitting is such a skill, as well. No one has the time or the energy to devote to both pitching and hitting. The result is that by the time they reach the major leagues, the best athletes (who were often great hitters and great pitchers in high school and sometimes even college) have specialized in one or the other. So we have the paradox of players who are often the biggest and strongest players on the field being the most anemic hitters.

In the National League, the pitcher almost always bats last in the lineup. Not only that, but from the 6th inning on, pitcher at bats are rare. When the pitcher is scheduled up, the National League manager often calls on a pinch-hitter. This move not only removes the pitcher from what is often an embarrassing at bat, but also removes him from pitching the rest of the game. A new pitcher must enter once the team’s at bat is finished.

In the American League, there is no reason to take out a pitcher for a pinch-hitter, because the pitcher never bats. Not once. Instead, a Designated Hitter (usually a good hitter who doesn’t field well) takes one of the nine spots in the batting order.

OK, now I’ll tell you why the DH stinks.

It’s not because I love to watch pitchers bat. They’re pretty lousy. It’s not because I like the “strategy” of having the pitcher bunt with a runner on base. It’s pretty automatic, and while pretty, not nearly as exciting as when a bunt, hit-and-run, or steal are called in surprise situations.

So why? One reason. Bottom of the 6th, your team is down by a run, runner on 1st, 2 outs. Do you pinch-hit for your starting pitcher, or leave him in for one more inning? That’s the kind of gut-wrenching decision National League managers have to make 2-3 times a week. It’s a decision an American League manager never faces. That’s why the DH should go away.

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Why is it so easy to forget these three words? Why is it so easy to let the idiocy of routine, business, and disappointment get in the way of this most simple directive?

Joseph Campbell got it. I want to get it, and most days I think I do. But it’s so easy to get distracted. Every day, every moment, is a precious miracle that will never be repeated. Don’t squander it! Follow your bliss. Embrace it and don’t ever let it get away.

OK, I feel better now.

Here’s something amazing.

Hold a ten pound rock in one hand, a five pound rock in the other. Drop them from the same height at the same time. They fall at the same rate and hit the ground at the same moment.

This is a routine, everyday event, something our science teachers treat as some sort of self-evident truth. It’s what Galileo showed us, right? What’s the big deal?

But this routine, everyday event is filled with wonder.

Consider: if you kick a five pound rock and a ten pound rock with the same force, you expect the five pound rock to move a lot more than the ten pound rock.

(You also expect a sore toe.)

But if you drop those same two rocks (not on your toe!), they fall at the same rate. It’s almost as if the Earth “knows” that it has to pull harder on the heavier rock.

Why this should be so is not at all obvious.

Here’s the explanation. There are two different kinds of mass. They are called “inertial mass” and “gravitational mass.” Inertial mass is what you feel when you kick a rock with your toe. The rock doesn’t want to move. You have to apply force to overcome its inertia. Gravitational mass is what you measure when you put the two rocks on a balance. Gravity pulls harder on the heavier rock, causing it to pull down its side of the balance.

Here’s the wonder. Gravitational mass and inertial mass are always (for every case we’ve ever measured) exactly the same. As a result, all objects fall at the same rate.

But why should inertial mass and gravitational mass be the same? There’s no particular reason they should be, as far as we can see. And yet they are. Asking this question led Albert Einstein to his greatest theory, perhaps the greatest theory ever devised by a single human mind: the General Theory of Relativity.

And yet the wonder of this theory is available to us all, through dropping two rocks and thinking about what you see.

And that, that wonder that catches your breath and makes your stomach jump like you’ve swallowed an otter, is called following your bliss.

My first book, called The Turtle and the Universe, was published by Prometheus Books in July 2008. You can read about it by clicking on the link above.
My second book, Atoms and Eve, is available as an e-book at Barnes and Noble. Click the link above. You can download the free nook e-reader by clicking the link below.
June 2009
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A blog by Stephen Whitt

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