SCOTT SIMON, host:
This week, Mark Buehrle, who pitches for the Chicago White Sox, made a play on opening day that encourages those of us who believe, at least now and then, that there are a few lessons for life between the foul lines. Cleveland Indians' catcher Lou Marson hit a ground ball in the fifth inning that Mr. Buehrle - who's actually only kind of stocky - knocked down with his left leg. The ball dribbled over to the first base line. But just before Mr. Marson could reach the base for a single, Mark Buehrle scooped the ball into his glove and, without so much as a backwards glance, hiked it between his legs.
First baseman Paul Konerko caught it with his bare hand like Superman stopping a bullet in slow motion. Mr. Buehrle said it wasn't until a moment later, when he heard the sold-out crowd cheer as if they just saw a dolphin play a grand piano, he realized he'd made an out in a way no one had ever seen before. Tossing the ball backwards with a baseball glove from between the legs: as Paul Konerko said, it's not something you practice. By the way, the White Sox won 6-0.
The Chicago Sun Times said the next day that Mr. Buehrle's remarkable play brings up what it called baseball's version of the nature versus nurture question. Was it phenomenal reactions or creative genius?
Now, Mark Buehrle is a good pitcher whom sports pundits now calls great because he's thrown a no-hitter, perfect game and helped win a World Series. But in a game in which general managers look for phenom fast ballers who are still young enough for acne, Mr. Buehrle's in his 30s. His throw was outstanding, but his fast ball might not break a plate glass window.
In a game in which pitchers pace the mound, pat the dirt, murmur mantras and otherwise take maximum time between pitches, Mr. Buehrle pitches so fast you wonder if he has a cab waiting. He's irreverent and funny. A team player, but not always a company man. He marches to his own music and that music is punk.
He rides motorcycles. Team management asked Mr. Buehrle to stop amusing the crowd during rain delays by sliding on the tarp, saying that a man earning so many of their millions owed it to the club not to risk playing slip and slide for laughs.
A more conventional company man might have seen that dribbling ball and reacted conventionally - pick it up, turn, hold on to the ball, miss the out but keep the runner close, avoid blame. But some magic mix of experience and irreverence in Mark Buehrle came up with an utterly original out.
It was a nice spring reminder that no matter how much you think you've seen of baseball or life, there's always something new.
(Soundbite of song)
THE PERSUASIONS: (Singing) Life is a ballgame, being played each day. Life is a ballgame, everybody can play. You know Jesus is standing at the home plate. He's waiting for you there. Life is a ballgame, but you've got to play it fair. Yknow, prayer is a strong bat to hit at Satans ball. Well, when the stars are swinging, you got to give it your all and all. You know Satans gonna be your catcher, and on Him you can depend, because Jesus is standing at the home plate. Hes waiting for you to come in.
SIMON: And youre listening to NPR News.
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