The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 12, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN: Buckner has special day

MORGANTOWN — It was to be a day like no other for Grant Buckner, but he didn’t sense it.

Oh, there were differences, for sure, beginning with the West Virginia University power hitter’s arrival at Hawley Field to find the day being cold with a strong wind gusting out toward left field.

No matter what the level, when a hitter arrives at the ball park on a day like this, the juices flow a little better.

Back in the day, when the Cincinnati Reds were the Big Red Machine and on the road in Wrigley Field, the bus ride was hilarious when the wind was blowing out, for the Johnny Benchs, George Fosters and Tony Perezes of the world knew the balls would be flying out onto Waveland Avenue.

Take May 9, 1976, when they beat the Cubs, 14-2, with Ken Griffey Sr., Dan Driessen, Pete Rose, George Foster and Tony Perez hitting home runs, Perez nailing two of them.

The level of ball doesn’t matter on this, as Buckner found. When he arrived at the ball yard, the flags standing stiff in the breeze, he and his teammates began laughing and joking.

“You can’t wait to get in the batter’s box,” Buckner said.

It would be a hitter’s day at Hawley Field, but who knew it would turn into the day it did.

No matter how strong the wind, hitting a baseball remains the most difficult thing to do in sports, even for those swinging aluminum bats. The advantage is all to the pitcher.

He has eight fielders behind him. You stand alone, nothing but a stick in your hand.

He knows what pitch he will throw. He knows where he will throw it. He throws it when he’s ready, not when the hitter is.

Where else can you fail 70 percent of the time and be considered a Hall of Fame success than as a hitter?

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