"Can a reporter hit a 100 mile per hour fastball?" read the press release from Slugfest Baseball and Softball Training Center. The facility had just procured a revolutionary pitching machine, featuring a video screen of an actual, human pitcher whose arsenal includes a curveball, a slider, a sinker, a change-up, and a fastball with velocity anywhere from 40 - 100 mph, and they were asking reporters to come down to take a few swings at their new toy.
"Man," I replied, "I wouldn't want to be that guy."
Several days later, I was watching with a helmet on my head as Jim Ruoff, former pro boxer and current co-owner of Slugfest, calibrated the machine so that it would be less likely to kill me. It's a computer with pinpoint accuracy, though, so any trepidation on my part about getting hit was completely irrelevant.
After some casual procrastinating and pretending to go to the bathroom I stepped into the cage.
"I am warming up..." the computer screen said in an alarmingly sentient first person tone, further fueling suspicisons that computers are planning a global rebellion and now we've armed them with a 100 mph cannon.
At 100 mph, the ball becomes somewhat invisible and proves its existence with a thunderous crash against the backstop. Here we see the Reds' Aroldis Chapman lighting the stove with some triple digit heat.
And yes, safe behind the back stop, we can all gasp with wonder at this human anomaly and celebrate anyone who fends it off successfully.
But the way that batter is still swinging as the sound of the ball slapping the catcher's mitt echoes through the premesis; that's 100 mph This is the experience Slugfest has bottled and now offers to its local athletes in Reading, PA. Many ballplayers, as young as 11, have come in and gotten their picture on the wall for making contact.
I'll bet some reporters could hit a 100 mph fastball. They could probably take more swings without people suppressing laughter, and the suggestions given to them - lower that elbow, step a lot sooner, maybe don't wear a dolphin t-shirt - will probably fall on more capable ears.
But I guess they were all busy.