Friday, July 6, 2012

"Batter Up!"

By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I don’t like to brag about my athletic prowess, mainly because I don’t have any, but I must say that I was a pretty good baseball player in my day. Unfortunately, that day was June 4, 1965, when I got a double in a Little League game. It was the highlight of an otherwise unremarkable career.

I never did realize my dream of making it to the big leagues and becoming the all-time home run champion. And now I know why: I didn’t wear jasmine-scented wristbands.

They’re better than steroids because they’re safe, they’re legal and they don’t have to be injected into your butt. And they were developed by my favorite mad scientist, Dr. Alan Hirsch, the founder and neurological director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago.

In his latest study, “The Effects of Aroma of Jasmine on Major League Baseball Players,” Hirsch worked with the Chicago White Sox before a game last August. Six players in a batting cage alternated sniffing regular cotton wristbands and those that smelled of jasmine.

“They were independently assessed regarding the mechanics of their swings, including trajectory, ball flight, bat speed and bat swing zone,” Hirsch said in the study. “Compared to the no-odor trials, jasmine significantly improved all batting parameters.”

Seeing this as a chance to restart my baseball career, I called Hirsch to discuss strategy. But first I wanted to know why this Cubs fan chose to study his team’s cross-town rivals.

“I’m not sure anything would work with the Cubs,” said Hirsch, noting that they haven’t won the World Series since 1908. “At least the White Sox have potential.”

He’s right: The Sox are enjoying the sweet smell of success; the Cubs stink.

As for the study, Hirsch found that the scent of jasmine is relaxing, which helps calm players and improve hand-eye coordination.

“I didn’t think they should come to bat wearing scented masks, so we used the wristbands,” said Hirsch, adding that he doesn’t believe the bands have been used in games. “I suppose a team could have jasmine air fresheners in the dugout. And I can see a player with the sniffles being put on the disabled list.”

“I’ve been on the disabled list since Little League,” I said. “Do you think a jasmine wristband could help me make it to the majors?”

“Maybe with the Cubs,” said Hirsch, who mailed me a scented wristband.

Immediately after receiving it, I called Winner’s Edge Sports Training, an indoor facility in Huntington Station, N.Y., and scheduled a session in the batting cage with instructor Chad Ross.

“Most of our students are 8 or 9 years old, so you definitely are the oldest one we’ve ever had,” said Ross, 27, who has been playing baseball since he was 4. He was a hitting scout at Farmingdale State College and plays in an adult recreational league.

At first, Ross had me hit baseballs off a tee. Some of them went as far as three feet. Then he worked on my stance and the mechanics of my swing. After that, he pitched beach balls to me. I actually hit some.

Finally, the real test: Batting practice with baseballs tossed by Ross.

I put on a regular cotton wristband and sniffed it. Then I got in my stance and waited for the first pitch. I missed it. I missed two more, fouled one off and hit one past Ross.

“You were one for five,” he said.

Next, I put on my jasmine-scented wristband and sniffed it before each of Ross’ five pitches. I clobbered all of them.

“That’s incredible!” Ross exclaimed. “Those things really work.”

“They helped me feel more comfortable at the plate,” I explained.

“I could see that because you had a more natural swing than you did before,” said Ross, adding that the jasmine scent is very relaxing. “I might use one of those wristbands myself. Then we could both make it to the majors.”

“If,” I said, “you don’t mind playing for the Cubs.”

Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima


Dave Astor said...

If jasmine-scented wristbands work for baseball, I see the potential for other sports: jasmine-scented helmet straps in football, jasmine-scented hockey pucks, and -- for the greatest sport of all, politics -- jasmine-scented lobbyists. Humorous, expert column, Jerry; you must have written it on a jasmine-scented keyboard!

Jerry Zezima said...

Dave, your comment has the whiff of greatness, though I don't think even jasmine could take the stench out of politics. Still, your witty reply makes me feel fine, blowing through the jasmine in my mind. Oh, no! Now I can't get that song out of my head! said...

Hmmmmm. MyHusbandTheEngineer has thought of a wider range of applications for the wristbands. He would like to suggest the kitchen application, wherein one's resistance to cooking might be relaxed, thereby improving the odds of getting dinner on a regular basis. He volunteers me for the beta test.
Great story,Jerry!

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Cathy! If I tried your husband's application, I'd either burn the house down or serve a jasmine-scented dinner. Neither would be palatable. But I'm sure you would pass the beta test. Bon appetit!

darev2005 said...

Wow. I'd have to say you're on the right scent there, Jerry! (grin)

sdbelland said...

I was thinking the wristbands might help when my guy wants my help with one of his many projects.
Fun read Jerry!

Jerry Zezima said...

Darev2005, at least I can now say that, when it comes to baseball, I don't stink.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Sdbelland! Jasmine-scented wristbands improve hand-eye coordination, so I guess you can use them when helping your guy with his projects. Or, even better, you can give him the wristbands and supervise his work.

Heidi-"Heidi in Real Life" said...

Geez, how did I miss this one? I'm with you, I peaked at age 8 when a soccer ball hit me in the face and everyone thought I blocked. Jasmine scented wristbands--I'm going to get one right away. You're such a good writer--I always enjoy your posts.

Jerry Zezima said...

Thank you, Heidi. I don't know if the wristbands would work in soccer because, of course, you're not supposed to use your hands. But if there were a sequel to "A League of Their Own," you could be the star.