God Stuff

Jewish Mysticism and the Eephus


“The hardest thing to do in baseball is to hit a round baseball with a round bat, squarely.” – Ted Williams

By the time a baseball player makes the major leagues, he has seen thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pitches. From little league to high school, college to the minor leagues, a hitter has seen pitches of every shape and speed from every arm angle imaginable.

and even Spitballs

The distance from the mound to home plate is 60 feet, 6 inches. A fastball traveling 95 miles per hour takes four-tenths of a second to reach home plate. Which means, the hitter has approximately one-tenth of a second to decide if they are going to swing.

Clearly, Ted Williams is right. Hitting a baseball is not an easy thing to do. Even the best hitters fail to get a hit 7 out of 10 times that they try. To do it at all takes tremendous hand-eye coordination.

It also takes practice.

Lots of practice. Players learn the discipline of when to swing and (often more importantly) when not to swing by practicing over and over and over. In that tenth of a second, they can pick out the rotation of the ball and gauge the velocity and location.

Lots of practice.

Our spiritual lives are much the same aren’t they? If we wait until a crisis hits and a big decision is called for, and only then decide to open our Bible or begin to pray, we’re going to find it much more difficult. Spiritual growth is a disciple. We grow from each prayer, each Bible study, each discussion with a friend, each sermon we hear, book we read and video we watch.

Each time we listen to the God speak, we grow more and more able to recognize His voice. Each time we see Him at work in the world, we are better able to decipher the authentic miracle of His presence.

Some people call this “intuition.”

According to Rabbi Irwin Kula, “Intuition is the result of an accumulation of decisions. Intuition is really a culminating voice, one that speaks of thousands of previous decisions made consciously and unconsciously.”

In other words, hearing God speak takes lots of practice.

And while it takes practice, the one thing that isn’t required is certainty. Think about it. Nearly every hero of the Bible, when called by God to go, is reluctant. Moses, Abraham, Jonah, they all feel unworthy, they feel doubt, they all feel afraid.

God doesn’t call us to be certain. He calls us to act.

The mystical text the Zohar (not to be confused with the truly awful Adam Sandler movie) tells us that God says to every human being every day to “go forth.” Begin the journey that is yours to make.

To hit a baseball, you first have to swing.

Now, in baseball, among the variety of typical pitches that everyone prepares for, among the curves, sliders and fastballs, there is one pitch that a batter is likely never to see. Maybe once in a lifetime.

The eephus.

The eephus travels at around 50 miles per hour and has a huge trajectory peaking at over 20 feet. Even with twice the normal amount of time to swing, the batter is typically frozen in place. They’ve just never seen anything like it.

…Japanese TV is the best…

The invention of the pitch is attributed to Rip Sewell, a 20 game winning pitcher in 1943. Sewell gave up only one career home run with the eephus pitch. This occurred in the 1946 All-Star Game.

Ted Williams was the batter.

In order to hit a baseball, you first have to swing. In order to join God in redeeming the world, in bringing order out of chaos, we don’t have to be certain, we just have to be willing to try. We have to “go forth.”

Just remember that sometimes, life throws you a curve….and sometimes it throws you an eephus.

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