Most baseball pitchers give an outward appearance of being calm, cool and collected or at least they try with their graceful windups and still life poses when runners reach base; the darting eyes, deep inhales and exhales. Livan Hernandez, Brad Penny, and Gaylord Perry come to mind.
Perry pumped his cradled hands up, down, and up again generating enough momentum to kick his leg breast level high and he made it look so damn easy. With a lick of the hands and rub under the cap; casual for some cold pizza at midnight; ice in his veins-melting into the ball as spit. And Penny with his super slow wind up could care less. Livan Hernandez? just another day playing catch with the grand-kids.
And on the other side were the ones who made you say damn; how in the hell does he do that! I never saw Juan Marichal pitch, but I tried that high ballerina leg kick once and that was enough. Luis Tiant twisted a 180 degree cork screw on every pitch. Fernando peeked at the sky during his round house delivery. There were submariners Dan Quisenberry, Kent Tekulve and more recently Chad Bradford; his knuckles scraping earth. The quirky list of heavy looking labor is long, but there is no one quite like Pat Neshek.
He’s spastic both before and after the pitch. He looks like a man playing twister with 7 ghosts. He begins with a downward thrust deceiving the batter into thinking a submarine is on its way, but then he raises the arm angle into a side winder. He follows through with a kangaroo hop of a dismount, his arm hula hooping towards the sky and facial expressions galore. Neshek is impossible to not impersonate.
Neshek reminds me how beautiful an epileptic seizure can be in a very horrific kind of way. It’s a rhythmic dance and I ask Scotty to beam up Neshek every time I’m seized by the the straight jacket of sour puss moods. He revives me.
Neshek was born in Madison, Wisconsin and attended high school in Minnesota. That’s where he developed his far from traditional wind up, follow through, twitch, hop, facial expressions and all around 9th wonder of the world disposition. He injured his arm and threw from the side as a pain management technique. His arm healed but he couldn’t throw overhand without discomfort.
So he turned a weakness into a quirky quality and it made solid sense because If you can’t throw 95 mph, then you better do something spectacular if you hope to draw a scout’s attention.
He was originally drafted by the Twins in the 45th round-1337th overall pick of the 1999 draft, but decided to attend Butler university instead. The Twins picked him again in 2002 as the 182nd pick. The Twins seem like the A’s in that they know who they want to draft and could care less what other teams think.
Neshek’s most memorable year was 2007 (70 innings, 44 hits allowed 74k’s). He pitched four years with the Twins before arm injuries, Tommy John surgery and waivers. The Padres claimed him for a season. Oakland for two, then Baltimore and now St. Louis. Typical life of a rolling stone reliever.
I never get tired of watching Neshek pitch because he never stops exuding that primal enthusiasm. That’s the dope I long for during this life. Neshek made the St. Louis Cardinals out of spring training and has already pitched in 14 of the Cardinal’s 29 games including Monday night when he plunked Aramis Ramirez and forced in the tying run; a blown save against the Brewers. Neshek returned Tuesday night and worked two scoreless innings with three strikeouts.
He didn’t pitch Wednesday. The Cardinals banged out 13 hits and scored 9 runs. The game was out of reach in the 4th inning. Final score Cardinals 9, Brewers 3.
The Brewers are 20-8.