—–“Finally, I get what a balk is,” I said to her. I was talking baseball.
—–“It is when the pitcher starts his pitching motion without taking his foot off the rubber, and instead of making a pitch, he goes and throws to first base.”
—–“Oh, really!” she said. I could tell she wanted me to tell her more.
—–“To pick off the base runner who is on first, you see. You can’t do that; you have to take your foot off the rubber before you throw to first, or it is deemed pure trickery and a balk.”
—–I set the scene more completely for her. Alex Rodriguez was on first-base, and when he saw the pitcher start his motion, he, Rodriguez took off running like a man possessed, for second base. But the pitcher, after already starting the pitch, threw to first base. But! He never took his foot off the rubber.
—–“Up and threw to first base,” I said.
—–“You are not allowed to even raise your arm in the beginning of a pitching motion and take your foot off during the motion,” I explained, “ because when the runner sees that you are beginning the pitch and have still got your foot of the rubber, they are free to try to make it to second during the pitch.”
—–“Really!” she said. It was amazing she was that interested, but I guess I made it so vivid for her it was like . . . exciting, or maybe she was excited for me, vicariously.
—–The whole thing was totally clear when they showed it on the instant replay, I told her. They showed it four times, I told her–it was undoubtably the clearest case of a balk, and the easiest to see happening right when it was happening, they ever had. I mean, though I have heard these definitions many times I never got the grasp, I guess, until I saw it so clearly in this replay. The thing is, you can look like you are about to start your pitching motion, and then quickly take your foot off the rubber on the mound, and throw over to first, like all in one motion. Andy Pettite is good at that. In fact, he picked off a runner at second in this very same game, whirling and throwing and ditching the rubber all in one motion. But you can’t do what the Mets pitcher did to Rodriguez; which was to clearly start his pitching motion and then just direct the ball over to first, instead of making the pitch itself.
—–“That is overt, obvious trickery,” I said, “and called a balk. So now you know.”
—–“So what is the rubber?” she wants to know.  And I realize she hasn’t been listening to me at all. Looking at me the whole time, and not hearing a thing I was saying.
—–“The rubber,” I say, “is the tie-breaker you play in a sports match, when the games are even and you need to declare a winner.”
—–“Oh!,” she says, “now I get it.”

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