My Unlikely Writing Teacher: Pedro Martinez

My Unlikely Writing Teacher: Pedro Martinez

Looking to a maestro on the mound to improve your game. Credit…Photo illustration by Marcello Velho July 11, 2023, 5:00 a.m. ET Sign up for the On Baseball newsletter. Our analysis of the biggest M.L.B. games, story lines and athletes, delivered daily during the postseason. Socked in during Covid lockdown, I became increasingly obsessed with archival footage of “actual human life,” so I scoured the internet for any videos I could find of Pedro Martinez, my favorite baseball player, in action. Watching him pitch was like gaining access to memories I'd forgotten or never quite had. Fortunately, the most illustrious game of his career — which took place on Sept. 10, 1999, when his team, the Boston Red Sox, played the Yankees, in New York, amid that year's playoff race — is now widely available online. Contemporary viewers can see what I would argue is not merely a baseball game but a , an opera, a lyric masterpiece. Watching it feels a bit like witnessing Virginia Woolf write “Mrs. Dalloway,” in real time, right in front of you. Inevitably, my viewing habit came to influence my own work. “This is what writing feels like lately,” I wrote in my journal. “It's all about pitch sequencing, about sentence variation. You have to move the reader through the paragraph. Fastball, curveball, changeup. Normal sentence, long sentence, short sentence. Straight declarative sentence, periodic sentence, sentence fragment. Keep them on their toes, keep throwing the ball past them.” I'm always thinking about the role that rhythm and movement play in my own and in the prose of my favorite writers; I love the way that language can leap from my mind and then to my fingers, much like a curveball arcing out of the hand of an All-Star pitcher. I studied Martinez, first as a baseball player and then, eventually, as an artist — I close-read him as you would a Modernist author. I came to learn that he is an excellent writing instructor, as wild as that sounds. His signature games are a master class in how to shift registers, […]

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