Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Least Marketable Skill in America (Ya gotta love it)

Only in America.

There are ways to make a living, and there are ways to make a living. In America, even criminals can think of themselves as responsible family men. But in the entertainment industry, comics and clowns and magicians and gurus and dumb pet trainers all can find a place. It's the land of opportunity.

I don't know how Gar Ryness got started, but his first home video went viral in 2009, and he hasn't looked back. The National Pastime will never be the same, now that the mimics have hit the scene, and every star's quirks are the stuff of once and future legends. 

BattingStanceGuy now has is own website, and has been featured in several news stories and media feature pieces, including The New York Times. Basically, Ryness's shtick is to imitate (or make impressions) of the physical stance (with all the antics and peculiar poses etc.) of professional baseball players when they're batting. 

Traditionally, batting stance and swing theory have emphasized certain basic requirements. In order to complete a swing, with a minimum of wasted energy and delay, a batter should stand with his feet a bit apart, facing 90 degrees from the pitcher, with the bat held in a position about 45 degrees vertically, and a comfortable distance from his body. If you watch any batter swing--especially professionals--you will notice that nearly all of them begin and end their actual swings in roughly this classic way. But all similarity ends there. 

How a batter approaches the plate, prepares himself to swing, what position feels proper to him, along with his eccentric body movements and reactions and superfluous tics and flinches and adjustments--all constitute the host of variations which separate all batters from each other. Successful hitting is a combination of intense focus, coordinated body movements, and a psychological mantra (or set of rhythmic steps) which help a batter focus his attention and energy on the contest between himself and the pitched ball coming towards him. Each batter has his peculiar method. Some are extremely relaxed, others are all wound up and tense. Some batters go through a set of odd body motions. Others hold the bat in extreme, counter-intuitive positions prior to executing their swings. Some can't stand still, and wiggle or twitch as they await the pitch. Some go into a kind of wind-up, similar to pitchers' wind-ups. Some point the bat at the pitcher, until the pitcher begins his wind-up. All these different mannerisms become characteristic of a batter's specific character, a kind of signature style of play. 

Ryness has studied every player's physical antics and stance, and he can imitate them with impressive skill. He has an impressionist's intuition about how to capture body movements, how to emphasize the nuances of a person's carriage and exaggerate them to comic effect. And he's discovered the perfect medium--the brief You-Tube spot video clip, ideally suited to a couple of quick impressions. And he's even extended this to include a full work-up of an imaginary Brian Wilson "work-out show"--or Brian Wilson Fitness Minute. Check out this extended spot video of Ryness entertaining Manny Ramirez (when he was with the Dodgers) and teammates with multiple impressions. 

Probably, Ryness is a new hybrid entertainment wizard, who's turned a nifty little concept into a whole new career, so take it on the road! (David Letterman Show clip). If it's 15 minutes of fame you want, why not 3 minutes? People have been looking at baseball players for a century and more, but Ryness is the first person to build a routine out of it. It's a typical Horatio Alger success story. I don't do plugs, but I salute Ryness for a brilliant bit of trivial pursuit.    

Famous Weird Batting Stances

Craig Counsell
Reach for the sky!

Jeff Bagwell
The classic deep squat

Kevin Youkilis
Is this to build up torque?

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