Columnist Jerry Brewer finds facing the Washington Huskies' Danielle Lawrie a very humbling experience — and a real honor.
Three things I’ll never be able to do:
Dance like a young Michael Jackson. Too stiff.
Win Mr. Universe. Too, uh, traditionally handsome.
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And hit a pitch from Danielle Lawrie. Too mortal.
I tried the latter Monday afternoon, participating in a media event dubbed the Danielle Lawrie Challenge, and let’s just say it was my most humiliating experience since, well, potty training. I hadn’t felt this intimidated since the first time I asked a girl out on a date. The only difference was that some of my journalism buddies shared in the embarrassment.
Only three people made contact in the hour or so that Lawrie threw with her bionic arm. Just one, ESPN.com scribe Jim Caple, hit a fair ball, and his dribbler to the right side would’ve been an easy play for a second baseman.
After witnessing Lawrie’s talent up close, we can all say definitively that the lame cliché “throws like a girl” isn’t an insult when applied to her. But we do hit like reporters.
Before you start thinking you could do better, let me describe an at-bat against the nation’s best college softball pitcher and newly minted national champion.
First of all, there’s no seeing a Lawrie pitch. I never knew a softball could seem invisible. And it’s on you faster than a bee on honey. Really, you just hear it. It sounds like a gas leak, and the next thing you know, the ball explodes in the catcher’s glove.
“Strike one!” catcher Taylor Smith exclaimed.
I didn’t swing. I thought Lawrie was still wiping sweat off her face.
Lawrie and Smith laughed at me for standing so far back in the batter’s box. I wanted an extra split-second to swing my bat. Lawrie could’ve left the softball stadium and made the pitch from nearby Lake Washington, and I wouldn’t have hit it.
On the second pitch, I told myself to start my swing as she finished her windup. The problem is, her windup is too quick and violent, like a crazed Ferris wheel. I took a good, hard cut, but my swing was laughably late.
“Strike two!” Smith exclaimed, chuckling.
I gulped. On the third pitch, I had only one goal: to go down swinging. I wasn’t about to strike out looking. I told myself to start my swing as soon as she began her windup. I was still late. And I swung as if the pitch was on the outside corner. Later, Lawrie told me she threw an inside fastball. Her pitches move so dramatically, and they break so late that you’re left to guess where the ball might arrive and hope you get lucky.
“Strike three!” Smith exclaimed.
And that was it. Hadn’t endured heat like that since my last summer trip to Vegas.
Fortunately, I knew to be humble. Others didn’t. KJR radio personality Dave “Softy” Mahler tried to call his shot. He wound up not being able to get the bat around before the ball popped into Smith’s glove. Chris Egan, a KING-5 television reporter, wore a T-shirt that read “I Didn’t Come Here To Lose.”
Um, yes, he did. Lawrie fanned him easily, too.
“I feel like everyone thinks they can hit a softball pitcher,” Lawrie said afterward, all but rolling her eyes. “Really, they have no idea.”
True to her ultracompetitive nature, Lawrie admitted that she approached this silly little media challenge as if it were a real game. Like she always does, she visualized making all the right pitches beforehand. She threw some of her best stuff, but she admitted letting up on a few pitches to conserve energy. She realized she could throw a couple of pitches down the middle and still annihilate the lowly media.
No doubt, she took it seriously, however.
“You think I want you guys writing smack about me in the paper?” Lawrie asked. “Nobody was going to get a hit.”
It’s funny. She’s the best at what she does. She’s about to be the ace of the Canadian national team. She’s still basking in the afterglow of Washington’s first softball championship. But she continues to compete as if she has no reputation. Love the fire within her. Glad it didn’t result in a rise ball to my noggin.
“When I say, ‘No, it’s not going to happen,’ it’s not going to happen,” Lawrie says.
No need to convince me. I’ve stood in the batter’s box against the great Danielle Lawrie. Humiliation aside, it was an honor.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org