Can Rob Neyer really outrun David Ortiz? The results are in
I’m blaming Twitter. Well, Twitter and my foolish pride. But I’m not blaming the beer! Because when I said I could run faster than David Ortiz, I was only halfway through my first pint.
This was last summer, in a bar just a few yards from Coors Field, where I’d just seen the Royals ace the Rockies in a pretty exciting game. I was sitting in a booth with Jonah Keri, and there was a clip of Big Papi laboring along the baseline and I said I could outrun him.
That was my foolish pride. Twitter got involved when Jonah sent this doozy out into the world:
"I'm willing to bet my house that I can outrun David Ortiz." – @robneyer
— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) August 20, 2014
Which sort of put me up against it, no? While I wasn’t at all sure that I actually am faster than Ortiz, now I sorta had to find out.
In case you haven’t heard, the weather where I live is problematic for something like, oh, setting up a time trial. I did quickly take care of the easy part: Finding out just how fast David Ortiz actually is. Thanks to the many wonders of MLB.com’s wonderfully indexed video archive, I determined that Ortiz goes from home to first base in about 4.7 seconds when he’s really busting for a single, and from home to third in 13 seconds on a stand-up triple when going hard until the end.
Those, then, were the times I hoped to beat.
To help with this great scientific experiment, I was fortunate enough to engage not one but two baseball writers, Matt Kory and Jeff Sullivan; and not one but two professional baseball scouts, Oakland’s Jim Coffman and Kansas City’s Josh Hallgren. Matt and Jeff were my fellow guinea pigs. Jim worked the stopwatch, and Josh the iPhone camera.
Before we get to the results of our little experiment, here’s the biggest lesson I learned: I’m as dumb as a post. Not one of the smart posts, either. One of the dumb posts who never listened to his parents or his coaches. Because I didn’t really warm up at all. I took one semi-spirited jog around the bases, picked up a bat and got in the box, ready to run as fast as I possibly could to first base. So does this surprise you?
Hey, these things happen! I’d never sprinted on artificial turf before. Turns out you have to get your feet under you, at least if you’re wearing smooth-soled jogging shoes. Got it.
So here’s my second shot at Big Papi’s home-to-first time:
I beat Papi!
Alas, the video stops before you hear PROFESSIONAL BASEBALL SCOUT Jim Coffman call out the time: 4.64 seconds. But while it’s not significantly faster than Ortiz’s 4.7 standard, a) it’s technically faster, or as fast, and b) is actually semi-impressive when you consider that I strained my hamstring well short of first base.
Yeah. Told you I’m dumb as a post. Literally every middle-aged man who’s ever sprinted without either a) training, or b) stretching, has strained (or torn!) his hamstring, which you might think I would have remembered. Along with Jim calling out the time, you also don’t see me crumpling to the ground just a few steps after hitting the base.
Anyway, that was the end of the experiment. My part of it, anyway.
But we did time Matt and Jeff, too.
Matt’s best time to first was 4.8 seconds …
Hey, he’s got twin boys and is tired a lot.
Jeff showed up a little late, and missed my mad dashes. I’m sure if he’d been on time, he would have known better than to do this:
Hey, happens to the best of ’em. On his second try, he aced Papi!
Four-point-six seconds. Even faster than me! granted, Jeff didn’t stumble until after he’d reached the base. But with a little training, who knows? And finally, here’s Jeff going to third (and beyond!).
I hadn’t told him what to do when he actually reached third base, so he just ran right through. Jim timed him at 13.63 seconds, but we adjusted that to 14 on the nose to account for the poor landing. OK, a whole second off Ortiz’s time here (and he was even faster, 12.6 seconds, when sliding into third base).
So am I really faster than David Ortiz? Yeah, I still think so. I think I would have significantly bested his time to first base if I hadn’t been lame. Considering that Jeff wasn’t far behind Ortiz’s triple time despite taking a poor route around the bases (sorry, Jeff!) and I was (almost!) as fast as Jeff to first base, I think I could beat Ortiz to third base, too.
But of course we don’t know any of these things for sure. So, yeah. I know I’m crazy. Or dumb. Or crazy dumb. But when the fields dry out and my hammy’s healed, I want a do-over. Probably should talk to my old lady about betting the house, though.