… You throw a no-hitter…
I recently read Andrew Baggarly’s wonderful piece on former San Francisco Giants pitcher Jonathan Sanchez, who threw a no-hitter 10 years ago—the first for the Giants in more than 30 years. Most of us Giants fans know exactly where we were that evening it happened. (For me, I was walking back from the YMCA as it was going down, following it via updates from my cousin until I could get home.) It was a special moment in SF Giants history, and while three World Series championships take centerstage now, that Sanchez no-hitter will always be special.
While reading Baggarly’s piece, I started thinking about everything that goes into a no-hitter. Yes, your stuff as a pitcher has to be on point that game. But that’s only one part of the equation. Your teammates on defense must make plays, both the routine and extraordinary. You could make a great pitch, but if the hitter makes good contact, the people behind you have to do their part to get the out. Most no-hitters tend to feature a couple of amazing defensive plays that save the pitcher’s quest for history. Then there are other factors that play into the outcome: umpire calls, fortunate bounces, and all the little things that have to go the pitcher’s way to make a no-hitter reality. If any of those variables come up unfavorably, poof! The no-hitter goes away. And who knows if a pitcher will ever get another chance at one again?
That’s a whole lot to ponder and mull over. And if you start thinking about every single little detail that goes into a no-hitter, it can get overwhelming. As a pitcher, all you can do is make your pitch. From there, the rest is out of your control—which can be scary. But it’s also reality, whether you like it or not. So you might as well throw your best, and whatever happens, happens. After all, you throw a no-hitter—you don’t think one into existence.
Now I’m no pitcher, but I do have a tremendous ability to overthink. It can be a blessing and a curse, though in my case, many of my friends likely think it’s the latter. While I believe my tendency to overthink has some benefits (e.g., it helps with my writing), I acknowledge the pitfalls. Paralysis by analysis is a thing, and overthinking can create straw men and blindspots. It can be a flawed shield as well. Life often throws curveballs (again with the baseball analogy) that we don’t anticipate, and if we’re dead-set on one outcome—and another happens—that could set us back. There’s something to be said for going in blind and trusting that we’ll emerge on the other side OK. Though that is easier said than done, of course.
In that spirit, I am reminded of the Book of Deuteronomy (DT 30:10-14), which happened to be the first reading from this past Sunday (and special to me for personal reasons. Specifically, these lines:
"For this command that I enjoin on you today
is not too mysterious and remote for you.
It is not up in the sky, that you should say,
'Who will go up in the sky to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
Nor is it across the sea, that you should say,
'Who will cross the sea to get it for us
and tell us of it, that we may carry it out?'
No, it is something very near to you,
already in your mouths and in your hearts;
you have only to carry it out."
I emphasized the last three lines purposefully, as they are critical for us overthinkers to consider. For all the theories and ideas we may concoct in our heads, we also possess knowledge within the fuzzier parts of ourselves—like our heart, our feelings. We have to be willing to trust it, though. To have faith. Our minds are wonderful at laying out logical proofs that appeal to our rationality. But rationality and logic aren’t always the answer. When our feelings are speaking to us, we shouldn’t ignore or dismiss their message. We are human, after all, and to think we’re perfectly rational creatures is, well, irrational.
As Baggarly’s article showed, Sanchez’s no-hitter shouldn’t have happened. He was struggling with his mechanics and emotions—so much to the point that he asked his dad to visit from Puerto Rico just be with him during that tough professional stretch. Sanchez was worried he was going to get sent to the minor leagues. He wasn’t even supposed to pitch that night against the Padres. He only got the start because the originally scheduled pitcher (Randy Johnson) got hurt. The regular cacher, Bengie Molina, was away because of his daughter’s birthday—the backup catcher, Eli Whiteside, caught instead. But Sanchez went out there, threw like he had nothing to lose, was on the verge of a perfect game that he lost because of an error—and still ended up tossing a no-hitter, a life-changing accomplishment. Logically, it shouldn’t have happened. But it did.
By all means, don’t stop thinking. But don’t be afraid to just throw, either. You might end up with a no-hitter.