Author: Daniel, Bert

Reading Signs

I'd give anything to be good at it. Some people just have a knack for it, like when Matt Cain reads the signs from his catcher and pitches a perfect game. In the Major Leagues, no less! Just let me have one perfect jam in the bush leagues with my jamming buddies and I'd be happy. Although you may practice a cherished break a million times and think you have it down pat, something just seems to happen in a jam sometimes that utterly destroys your visions of grandeur. You're crashing and there's nothing you can do about it.

Most of the time you see it coming. You feel it happening. A sudden sinking feeling that happens just at that moment you are expected to play. That feeling is probably why you crash in the first place, isn't it? Maybe the song leader looks at you unexpectedly and suddenly you're supposed to produce a fine solo, up to the level of your jamming partners (whose fine solos you have been enthralled with up until this shocking on the spot moment). Surprise! Your turn now!

That's when you have to know how to shake off signs. Like when Cain says to his catcher: "Let's not throw the fastball, let's throw the curve". I've seen people who are really good at this in a jam situation. Some of them are expert players who could play just about anything off the top of their head and still have a much better solo than I could ever do.

I just wish I were better at this particular skill. Shaking off signs. It would save me so much embarrassment. Most people are inclined to always try to justify the confidence of your song leader and take a "required" solo even though they may not be up to the task at the time. A real pro will pass off to a relief pitcher when they feel in their heart that their own effort would not be the right thing for the music at that time. And you have to be quick enough with your signals so the song leader will know you are not going to take a solo. But it can be done.

If you're a struggling intermediate picker like me, you might shoot yourself in the foot in a jam if you take too many passes. People will stop calling on you. Sure, if you're a Matt Cain they'll keep calling on you because they've seen what you can do when you get the ball. But if you feel more like a rookie, you just have to trust your song leader and give it your best shot. Only most of the time, though. When you feel that sinking feeling coming on strong, give them as much warning as you can and shake off the sign.

I sure hope I can remember that advice next time.
Posted:  7/16/2012

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