The Search for the “Perfect Pitch”

The Search for the “Perfect Pitch”

I know there’s a lot to discuss, but today I want to write about male entitlement in KVKL.

Specifically, I’m going to look at one dynamic that I have questions about. I’ve got concerns. The issue is women pitching to entitled male kickers. It’s not an issue with everyone and it’s not every time. I know there are enough times when male kickers act like jerks to male pitchers (Trust me, that argument doesn’t diminish my point; those kickers are still entitled jerks). And I can accept and tolerate a certain level of tension – no one’s perfect and sports wouldn’t be fun if we all were.

I also know that many female and femme pitchers may not agree with me. Maybe this isn’t their experience. I know that pitchers and kickers of all genders can be jerks. These are all things we should ask more questions about and be concerned with. But overall, I think we need to do better holding others (our male teammates, our friends, our partners) and ourselves accountable. Most of us could be more kind and forgiving in a lot of situations. I speak from ample experience.

But today I just want to say a few things about thisdynamic, this particular match-up:  women pitchers and male kickers. Here’s a few thoughts that I’ve have had over the last couple of years:

  • Do your best to throw the ball back to the pitcher. Or give the ball to the catcher (when they are looking at you and ready). Don’t put on a show if you don’t like the pitch. Literally treat the pitcher – regardless of their gender – like a human being. Sports, even rec sports, are competitive, but that doesn’t mean you get to be de-humanizing or disrespectful. Think about the message it sends to a person if you don’t even think they deserve the bare minimum. Grow up.
  • Talk to the pitcher if you actually have a valid concern – before the game, after the game, in between innings, etc. Find a calm or private space to do it. Most of us are nice people, and I can’t speak for others, but if you come and talk to me kindly and rationally, I will probably be fine talking to you. I am open to learning, looking at things from different perspectives, and meeting new people. Please don’t say passive aggressive, intimidating, or sarcastic comments, or simply be a jerk to the pitcher, if you don’t like a pitch or pitches. And if you mess up, if you say something because you are upset and emotions run understandably high … What if you apologized? What would our league look like if we apologized more?
  • Read the rulebook. Learn the rules of pitching and kicking. Everyone. Not just captains. What you might find out is that there is nothing in the rulebook that says a pitcher can’t use speed (within reason) or spin, as long as the ball doesn’t bounce and it comes by home plate. What you might come to realize is that kickers in KVKL have the advantage overall. There are no automatic balls and strikes and I have not seen an umpire ask a kicker to hurry up and kick. Our rules say:

Referees should use their discretion to make sure that every kicker gets the chance to kick a ball of their liking, but if a kicker is letting kickable pitches go by, strikes should be called.”

How many times has an umpire actually started calling strikes on a picky male kicker? I’m not saying it doesn’t happen, but I am noticing that I’ve never seen it. I have only experienced male umpires telling me to give the kicker exactlywhat they want everypitch, even though that is not the rule. Some pitchers aren’t going to care about spin or speed or moving the ball around, but some might want to try. My main questions are: Are there different expectations for female pitchers?Do some men – consciously or subconsciously – want or expect female pitchers to not try?

  • Here’s another thought. Think about a pitch with spin on it. Then think about trying to cleanly field a ball that has weird spin or came off the foot of the kicker in an abnormal way. I’m no physicist, but I think spin could actually benefit the kicker sometimes. I think a faster pitch benefits a power kicker, too. Secure and experienced kickers understand these things; insecure and entitled kickers throw fits. I think we need to be more okay with a league in which pitchers have the option to change speeds or the direction of their pitches if they want to (of course within reason, like the rulebook says). The kickers already have the advantage in KVKL.

 

This issue comes up across the skill level of the teams and players. Sure, super competitive players and teams can have their own problematic dynamics, especially when it comes to gender and masculinity. But I play for a team that consistently finishes in the middle of the pack. We play teams who win most of their games and we play teams who struggle to win any games each year. I have found that it doesn’t really matter; there are people – almost exclusively men – on almostevery team who get upset if I try and be artistic, skillful, or competitive when pitching.

Again, it’s certainly not everyone. But what I say today is… Ask yourself if you are one of those guys. If you aren’t, how many of those guys do you know? How many are on your team? If you are calling them out already, thank you. I know it’s hard to stand up to people and hold them accountable, especially people who are our friends and teammates. What history and the present teach us is that when there are gray areas, people with more societal power and privilege often go un-checked. They assert their dominance in sometimes subtle or sometimes overt ways. KVKL is not exceptional.

But ultimately, we all have work to do and I’m not trying to shame anyone. I know that I can do more to control my reactions, to not get upset or to move on more quickly if I get upset. There are many people I should apologize to and I haven’t. But this I know: Sexism in KVKL happens and will continue to happen. Racism happens. A variety of forms of gender and racial discrimination happen. Discrimination is complicated and often it’s hard to “prove,” (and there are also plenty of people who want to deny or minimize that these dynamics happen in Lawrence, in our rec kickball league). These could be very personal and difficult experiences and patterns that people have learned to resist, to tolerate, or to put aside for the sake of being part of an imperfect, recreational community. It’s also true that people don’t come to this league without a lifetime of experiences and trauma and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Let’s try and remember that more often.

Finally, thanks for your time in reading this, what ultimately is one person’s perspective. It’s complicated and it doesn’t cover the really important issues involving gender (such as problematic league culture around the gender binary; discrimination again trans, genderqueer, and non-binary athletes; and why there are still only three ”women” required for each team… still… in 2019; and more!), but I just wanted to ask some questions and I want more conversation. Are we a community that can tolerate and even celebrate conversation? I think the league can be competitive and caring,but it’s going to take work and the actual desire to make that happen.

 Sure, fellas, you get the chance the kick a ball to your liking, but do you really deserve a perfect pitch every time?

 

— Missy Foree

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