"I hit one that far, once. I really did. And I still bogeyed that hole." -- Ron Fairly, Montreal Expos, after watching Mike Schmidt of the Phillies launch a long one.
David Murphy is standing in the Texas Rangers’ clubhouse talking about the perfect swing.
As he does, a smile begins to cross his chiselled features; one that is far away, as you might expect from a sailor who swears he’s seen a mermaid and has to explain it to someone who wasn’t there.
It’s personal. It’s special. And it happens with an infrequency that requires you to savour every second in case it does not occur again.
"Those moments are kind of few and far between," says the eight-year veteran, while over his shoulder a teammate is pretending not to listen while he’s doing up his shoes and nodding his head.
"Those are the moments when you are at the very top of your game, and I guess you want to bottle that feeling because it’s something you wish you could feel on a daily basis."
Hitting a baseball has been described, often, as the hardest single act in sports. It’s certainly one of the most talked about -- as the man said, this is the only game where you can fail 70 per cent of the time and still make millions.
The perfect swing is out there, re-discovered just enough times to make the never-ending hunt worth it.
"It’s hard to explain because it doesn’t happen [often]," says Adam Lind, leaning back with his feet up and a plug on the go in the Toronto Blue Jays’ clubhouse. "The swing you really want happens, like, once a week, maybe, if you’re lucky, and the rest are like you found the right hole, or you hit it in the right spot [on the field]."
Finding the perfect swing can have a sense of magic to it.
Ask Colorado’s Michael Cuddyer, a 13-year veteran and one of the best hitters (.339 this season) on the best-hitting team in the National League.
"It kind of starts from the pitcher’s hand," he says. "When you have that perfect home run, that perfect swing, it’s almost like right when the ball leaves the hand you know it’s going to be a perfect one.
"It’s almost like you saw it happen, before it happens."
Kind of takes "zoning in" to a higher plane. Ethereal.
'There’s no other feeling like it'
In golf, it’s a "click". In baseball, it’s the storied Crack of the Bat, only much louder than normal.
And the ball has backspin -- allowing it to work with air currents to rise, rise and rise as it heads out of the park on a straight line.
A perfect swing even feels different as you put that 34-ounce (or so) piece of maple or ash onto that six-ounce ball and blast it off to infinity.
"It kind of feels like you are cutting through butter," says Cuddyer, showing with his hand how the bat goes through the hitting zone. "You don’t really feel it, but you kind of do … and you just push through it."
Murphy, unprompted (as his interview was the series before), offered almost the same idea.
"It’s almost like the ball melts into the bat for a split second," he says. "There’s no other feeling like it.
"The game of baseball is full of imperfection -- as a hitter you’re going to fail over and over and over again, but in that moment it does feel like perfection, so … those are the pinnacle moments."
There is danger, however, in this ongoing search for baseball’s mermaid. Catching a glimpse must not lead you to crash onto the rocks and shoals of self-satisfaction.
You just can’t allow yourself to be impressed with yourself.
Cuddyer says there are definitely times when you know you hit one perfectly, "but you have to treat it like any other one."
Because the next 20 might be terrible. In fact, of every 10 home run swings, he points out, only half of them might be anywhere near perfection. For him, that’s 84 swats in 5,190 plate appearances during his career.
Lind, up to this story the hottest hitter on the Jays for over a month, doesn’t have to look far for reasons to be humble, because "maybe when I impress myself, Eddie’s next at bat he’ll go like 20 rows deeper."
That’s Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto’s home run leader with 21 this year.
Still, you can’t take away the moment, when it happens. How does it feel, Adam?
"Like you want to do it again."
He smiles the smile of a happy sailor.