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Monday, July 13, 2015

THE SWEET SPOT

Sweet spot. Have you heard this term? I was introduced to it as a baseball player in my early teens. It refers to a precise area of the baseball bat, located at the thickest part of the barrel, about 3 inches or so from the end, and right square in the center. If you as hitter are able to make contact with the baseball sent hurling towards you by the pitcher from 60 feet 6 inches away, hit the ball right at its center, what you get is this beautiful smack sound and the ball goes ricocheting back at the field, often much faster than the speed at which it was thrown, which in the majors can be over 100 mph but in high school baseball (the farthest I went in sports) is usually closer to 85.

There is no sound like that smack. It's on par with the ace in tennis, golf's hole in one, the bowler's strike, more rare than the baller's slam dunk. The sweet spot is every hitter's dream. It's not hard to see why. Hits originating at the sweet spot are often of the nature of line drives, either up the middle or down the line, and often in the alley either side of center field. So many singles and doubles and triples thereby produced. But more than a few balls thus hit land hundreds of feet away in the bleacher seats. You know what that's called, I'm sure. Home run.

I hit 8 home runs during as many years as a ballplayer. My first came when I played for the Cardinals at the age of 12. They let me keep the ball, which is Little League tradition. I was beaming all the way home and into the next day when I told all my school chums about it. All my homers involved the sweet spot, as homers, also called dingers, blasts, bombs and touch 'em alls, generally do.

Now a batter can certainly get a hit without connecting at the sweet spot, but these bloopers and nubbers and squibbers as they're called aren't all that awe-inspiring; however, alluding fielders as they often do they are certainly fun to watch. It is even possible missing the sweet spot entirely to hit a home run. Some batters have gotten jammed, as they say, connecting with the ball at the bat's grip, a very thin portion just above the hands, which really stings on contact, or hitting the ball off the end of the bat and still manage to send it soaring into the sky. The real strong fellers have been known to do this. The Bo Jacksons and Mark McQwires of the hitter's pantheon.


But nothing compares to the thwack you hear when ball and bat connect just so. I'd advise attending a baseball game just to hear that sound, if you already haven't. Or better yet, try taking a few swings yourself, if not on the diamond then in the game of life.

Because you see, although my days of playing hardball ended after my senior year, I'd come to find that the sweet spot applies in other areas besides America's pastime. Take running. As a half-marathoner, I'd discover the pace where I was pushing myself hard enough to feel challenged and proud of my finishing time, but not so hard as to feel miserable and want to die. I could run fast, feel the wind fly through my hair and the landmarks whiz by, and still enjoy the experience of running. For me this was about 6 minutes per mile, closer to 6:25 for the full marathon. As a writer, usually 2 hours or 2000 words a day about does it. For calories, 3000 or so is just right, more in weeks I run more than 30 miles, also a sweet spot.

The sweet spot is that area in any area of life that is just about right. Where you get the perfect mix of hard work and light-hearted fun, that oh so delicate balance of exertion and enjoyment. Where it feels really good to be alive. It's also called the happy medium and middle road, but not the G spot. That's something somewhat different, but also interesting to explore.

Live at life's sweet spot as often and for as long as you possibly can. Really it doesn't get any better.

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