Here’s a piece that I discovered in a baseball-focused academic journal that I am currently analyzing for a class. It’s from the journal NINE, which is a publication that I have found to be a bit quirky, enjoyable, and informative all at the same time. The author of this piece, “The Sound of the Bat,” is Bill Meissner, who has also written a collection of baseball short stories.
The sound of a wooden bat hitting a baseball is so sharp and resonant that if you close your eyes, you can almost see it, like a flash of light.
The bat hitting the ball is not like the soft, gentle sound of an egg cracking. It’s the sound you hear when lightning parts the air for a split second, and the sky claps its hands.
It surprises the sleeping air around home plate, wakes the grass blades of a whole sandlot field, startles an entire stadium.
Its jolting alarm starts the game, sets everything into motion: fielders, ump, baserunners. Like the starting gun at a race, it signals the batter to sprint down the first base line; it lifts fans and onlookers to their feet.
It’s sudden, like the wings of a startled thrush as it bursts from a branch.
It’s the explosion of polished wood striking fast-pitched leather.
It’s a sound you feel as much as hear, a sound that echoes deep in your chest, especially if you’re close to home plate.
When a batter swings and the bat shatters, it’s not the same. It’s a sad, splintering sound, like a bone breaking, or a dead tree limb falling to the hard ground.
But the solid hit—oh, the solid hit: the batter feels its vibration in his hands and wrists and forearms and all the way down to his roots.
The crack of the bat: Baseball’s punctuation. Its heartbeat. Its music. A shot that, sometimes, is heard around the world.
It’s when all time begins and ends. If Albert Einstein were in the stands, he’d hear the sound of the bat and calculate energy and distance. He’d tell you exactly how long it would take a long home run—if it kept on flying—to reach the stars.