By Michael Clair

Michael Bolton's Winning Softball Should Manage an MLB Team.

Tony Gwynn famously studied videotape, rushing in after at-bats to watch as, in grainy VHS glory, he looked for a tell from the pitcher or a hitch in his swing. Today, ballplayers routinely use iPads, PitchFX, and all manner of modern technology in their attempt to become better. At the same time, teams routinely hire expensive managers, pitching instructors, hitting coaches, bullpen gurus, and team psychologists in hopes of wringing one or two or three more wins out of a season.

But teams and players alike have missed the one thing that's been under their noses for the last 20 years, something that combines all of those disciplines: Michael Bolton's Winning Softball.

As we walk confidently into the future, one where GMs can come from business schools and not ballfields, one where managers are cultivators of personality instead of in-game tacticians, it's time to also realize that 1993's greatest gift, Michael Bolton's Winning Softball, should be in the clubhouse and dugout of every major league team.

That's right, not Michael Bolton, but the video tape itself. Just sit down the 25-man roster once or twice a week in front of one of those dual TV/VCRs that are collecting dust in the custodian's closet of some local high school and let them learn lessons from the man who wrote "That's What Love is All About."

Don't believe me? Don't think Michael Bolton can help you and your team?

bolton_point_1130

Maybe a short montage will help:

 

 

Still not convinced? Just look at the things that Michael Bolton and his Winning Softball can teach:

Hitting Secrets

Sure, you probably look at Michael Bolton and think three things:

1. Wow, what beautiful hair.
2. Wow, what a powerful voice.
3. Probably not much of a hitter.

How wrong you would be. Not only is Michael Bolton the premiere vocalist of the late 20th century, delivering hit after hit after hit, but he actually does the very same thing at the plate.

bolton_swing_1852

But how did he do it? How did he manage to become not just the voice of a generation, but the cleanup hitter of it as well?

By using Dave Carroll's 8 steps to hitting with authority.

hitting_with_authority

You may have heard of Dave Carroll. Beyond starring on a number of professional softball teams, Carroll also ran tournaments and owned a sporting goods company, finding his name plastered all over a variety of Angelfire sites devoted to the sport. Oh yeah, and Dave Carroll was arrested for bank fraud. Which gives him the kind of badass cred you need when dealing with professional athletes.

Among the highlights, Dave tells hitters to relax their arms, grip it to rip it, and think positively. I mean, look, he even turned Bob Hamelin into a major league hitter.

not_hamelin_

bolton_practice_swing_1502

Wait, you're saying that's not Bob Hamelin?

hamelin
(image via Slate)

Well, surely it's a Bob Hamelin relative of some sort... It's not? Well, huh.

And if you want to know Michael Bolton's secret to success, a secret that could help almost every major leaguer, it's this: Get mad at the ball. 

 

 

That's sure to strike fear into the heart of any pitcher.

Pitching Tips

While you may think that slow-pitch, underhanded tosses may not have any bearing on major league pitching, once again, you're wrong.

I mean, what about the success of the eephus pitch? Dave LaRoche made a career off of it. Because eephus pitches are great, let's just sit back and watch a few. 

Carlos Villanueva causing Jayson Werth's brain to lock up and explode:

 

 

Kaz Tadano missing the zone for the RiverCats in 2007:

 

 

Alex Rodriguez, further proving that he hates all that is decent, hitting a home run off of El Duque's eephus:

 

 

So, clearly, other than that one exception from a man who, according to most sportswriters, is the human embodiment of all evil, the pitch simply works.

And because even 95 mph fastballs are hittable if they lack movement, Dave Carroll has four pitches to share. Pitches like:

- The Grip and Release
- The Spinner Pitch
- The Side Spinner

And, the highlight of it all, the knuckleball. That's right, even in slow pitch softball, you can toss a floating, dancing, chaotic knuckleball.

bolton_pitch_3850

And what should a player think of when tossing this knuckler?

 

 

Thanks, Dave. Good call.

Uniform Design

This offseason has been a boring one for uniform aficionados. The Cubs announced some alternate uniforms and throwbacks, none too egregious; the Dodgers announced some alternates that swap out 'Los Angeles' for 'Dodgers' on their away uniforms, and the Giants changed the shade on their orange tops. No one went for a complete overhaul like the Astros of last year or the Marlins the year before.

Which is a shame because the platonic ideal of uniform aesthetics was already unleashed by Bolton's Bombers, and we as fans are just waiting for a major league team brave enough to bring it back.

First, the hat. It's simple and black, but with the important addition of a silver band with "BOLTON" pressed into the grooves. It can even double as a MedicAlert bracelet.

bolton_hat

The uniform is clean and classic, but highlighted by the addition of big, bold BOLTON in all caps across the uniform. Would you rather be the Astros, Yankees, Cubs, or BOLTONs? I'd rather be a Bolton.

bolton_uniform

Finally, the most important, and yet constantly overlooked aspect of the uniform: socks. While teams like the Rays and Cardinals offer flashy striped socks, Bolton's Bombers know that simplicity should be appreciated. That's why they wear white socks. Hell, you can just just buy a package of tube socks from Target and be ready to go!

white_sock

Paul Lukas, eat your heart out.

In the future, Bolton's Bombers would update their look, but remained forever classic, retaining that essential Bolton charm:

bolton_future_uniform
(Photo by Kathy Lewis, via MichaelBolton.com)

Team Building Exercises

The Rays have grown out mohawks, the Red Sox have grown beards, and rookies are routinely forced to dress up in Halloween costumes like it's spirit week in middle school. But Bolton's Bombers discovered the best way to ensure team unity was with long, stringy hair, preferably flowing outward from a closely cropped top of the head.

Look up and down the lineup, and you can't even find a weakness:

bolton_hair_1

hair_2

hair3

I even made an artist's rendering of how cool Jose Altuve would look if he adopted the Bomber's code of ethics and style.

altuve_hair

Sure, the Astros are a baseball fan's darling, hiring Baseball Prospectus writers and going all in on prospects, but just imagine how much fun they'd be with 25 guys with hair like that?

Make Every Song a Home Run

Michael Bolton understands a thing or two about a difficult grind, what with playing 4-5 shows a week in front of 20,000 screaming fans and then going out the very next day to play softball. He knows that he must pace himself for the marathon of a full season, but still needs to make every song a home run. Or, to make it applicable to baseball players, every home run a home run.

 

 

And when Bolton connects, he knows how to celebrate, too:

 

 

He's got plenty of swagger too, even calling his shot:

 

 

It's that swagger that helps Winning Softball:


Soothe the Stars

Often, the hardest aspect that the manager has to deal with is working with difficult personalities, the stars who have become accustomed to caviar and thick cut slices of bacon. Not a problem for Winning Softball. Not only has Michael Bolton sold over 60 million records, released nine #1 singles, and appeared in the 2002 classic, Snow Dogs, but his Bolton's Bombers routinely played against some of the best talent across the globe.

Talent like Rob Schneider:

rob_schneider

Victoria Jackson doing backflips:

bolton_backflip_3553

And Michael Jordan. That's right, NBA superstar, Michael Jordan.

michael_jordan

Before ever joining the Birmingham Barons, Michael Jordan squared off, and lost, to Michael Bolton and the Bolton's Bombers, though Jordan did go 1-for-4 with the team's only run. (Bo Jackson, acting as manager, would get run from the game for arguing a call at first base.)

Bolton even made some nifty defensive plays at third base, doubling the runner off at first base to secure the victory:

bolton_double_play_4448

Was this the impetus for Jordan becoming a professional baseball player, his need to atone for his loss at the hands of Bolton driving him to professional baseball? I'd have to say yes.

A Happy Clubhouse

Finally, most importantly, there would be no more clubhouse arguments with Winning Softball at the helm, no more infighting and bickering between teammates.

With the veteran stars happy and sated, the younger players given guidance, and no more arguing over the clubhouse music (because it would simply be Michael Bolton played on repeat, natch), that ever-important positive clubhouse chemistry would almost be guaranteed.

Even better, teams wouldn't have to hire someone to sing the National Anthem, either, as it would already taken care of.

 

 

 

If a manager's job is to soothe egos, instruct the on-field play, and keep the clubhouse loose, even Joe Maddon and his cavalcade of activity can't stack up against Winning Softball. Plus, after the initial investment of 99 cents at Goodwill, the extra $2 million in savings each year on manager salaries can go straight to 25% of a middle reliever. And that just makes fiscal sense.

But the ball is in their court now, the word is out. Now it's up to a major league owner and GM who have the confidence and foresight to challenge convention and hire Winning Softball. The game is ready for it. The fans are ready for it. Are teams ready for it?

So, Michael, if you would, play us out.

 

 

* * *

Michael Clair writes Old Time Family Baseball and contributes to MLB Daily Dish and The Platoon Advantage. His terrible high school band once played a concert with Michael Bolton's nephew. Follow him on Twitter @clairbearattack