"You see it, and you hit it."—Mark McGwire
Well, it's October, and another baseball season has just come to an end. Each of these 162-game journeys through the American summer comes complete with its own joys and frustrations; in my case, my beloved Twins were the hottest team in baseball before the All-Star Break, and then promptly folded like a cheap suit. As they say, there's always next year.
But wait! Now, for those of you who just can't get enough baseball until next April, it is possible to turn to your DVD players for consolation. Hitters on Hitting: Finding the Sweet Spot is a production of Major League Baseball, and is released by a company called Q Video.
Facts of the Case
Well, with Barry Bonds setting a new home run record in the past few days, the time seems right to examine the art and science of successfully hitting a round ball with a round bat. Hitters on Hitting talks with some of the greatest hitters of all time, including Ted Williams, the man who wrote the book on hitting—literally. It's called The Science of Hitting. According to Williams, hitting is the hardest thing to do in baseball, and it's probably the reason your dad or mine didn't make it to the big leagues. And Ted should know—he was the last player to hit over .400 in a season, hitting .406 back in 1941. His career statistics tell the story of one of the game's all-time great hitters: .344 lifetime batting average, 521 home runs, 1839 RBI and 2654 hits.
And so, Hitters on Hitting takes us on a journey through the finer points of hitting, broken down into the following segments:
• Students of the Game—This segment focuses on
"scientific" hitters, people like Ted Williams, Wade Boggs, and Tony
Gwynn who study hard and concentrate to refine their skills with the bat.
All of the above are liberally spiced with highlight footage from actual games, as well as interview footage shot specifically for this DVD. But wait! There's more! In addition to the 47 minutes of the main program, there is an additional 50 minutes of bonus footage. This comes in the form of two additional segments. One is entitled "The Science of Swing," and is probably the most interesting thing on the disc. It features four mini-featurettes starring a physics professor. He shows us in turn what makes the "sweet spot" sweet, the damage a 130 mph baseball can do to a cardboard box, what happens in the mostly friction-free collision of bat and ball, and how the laws of conservation of momentum apply to baseball.
The other additional footage is in a section of the disc labeled "Home Run Derby Highlights." These show highlights of every All-Star Home Run Derby since 1989. The clips for each year vary in length from 40 seconds to about 4 minutes. There is also some interesting historical background on the Home Run Derby, as well as a list of the winners since they started keeping track of individual winners in 1990.
While interesting and somewhat informative, this DVD is not going to teach anyone how to hit like Ted Williams. It's mostly an excuse to show lots of highlight clips of the great hitters of today and yesterday. Not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you. I enjoyed the footage and interview clips as much as anyone would. They are exciting, and it is quite interesting to hear players talking about the challenges involved in playing their game. I also liked the "behind the scenes" aspect of the presentation, which showed in some detail the various training regimens and assorted superstitions to which players seem to adhere. However, for me, the series of quickie physics "experiments" in the "Science of Swing" section were probably my favorite part of the disc.
The video presentation on this disc is quite good. All material is presented in the standard television aspect ratio of 4:3. This is only logical, since most of the footage originated as television broadcasts of baseball games. Almost everything is sharp and clear, although a few scenes seemed to be overly bright which caused whites to sparkle and shine a bit too much. Even the older footage looked quite good, although it was prone to a few more problems with faded colors and digital artifacts. Major League Baseball must have an extensive and well-maintained film library, because even the black and white footage of Ted Williams from the 1940s looked far better than expected.
The audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 Surround. It is adequate for the task and sounds pleasant, with no noticeable hiss or distortion. The only problem I noted is that occasionally the background music track is mixed in too loudly, distracting from what is being said on screen.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
It's our national pastime—do you really think I'm going to say anything negative?
Well, okay. The Home Run Derby footage is boring as all get-out, especially if you watch more than one year's highlights in a single sitting. There, are you happy now?
This disc might make a nice treat for baseball fans—especially younger ones—whose teams didn't make the playoffs. Young players may find some interesting material here, and hopefully it will inspire them to learn more and practice harder. For the rest of us, it's moderately entertaining but nothing to write home about.
Case dismissed. Play ball!
We stand adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• "The Science of Swing" Bonus Footage
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