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Thinking outside the lines

Game 5 starter Miguel Batista is a writer, poet and overall deep thinker. And he can pitch a little.

By MARC TOPKIN

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 1, 2001


NEW YORK -- He'll take the mound tonight with a game plan, ideas on which hitters are more susceptible to two-seam fastballs and how they'll react to back-door sliders.

But those aren't the only thoughts in Miguel Batista's head.

The Arizona pitcher has published a Spanish-language book of poems he has written over the years. He quotes Gandhi. He is working on a novel about a 14-year-old boy charged with serial murder. He has a photo of Albert Einstein in his locker with the inspirational quote: "Imagination is more important than knowledge." He plans to go to law school. He proclaims: "My only religion is love."

Call him the thinking man's pitcher.

"I have never been around anybody like Miguel Batista," Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. "He is a refreshing breath of fresh air. Not that this is a criticism, but if you are not talking about fantasy football or baseball or girls, most ballplayers don't have much to say.

"Miguel's got opinions on everything. He's extremely well-read, extremely well-spoken and a very thoughtful, caring human being. And he's a great pitcher on top of it. He's fun to be around."

Batista, a 30-year-old from the Dominican Republic, has been writing poetry for years. But it wasn't until Philadelphia pitcher Amaury Telemaco, a former roommate, read the poems and encouraged him that Batista published Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro (Feelings in Black and White) in January.

Batista has been working on a new project, interviewing police officers and lawyers and writing the novel in Spanish. If the premise weren't interesting enough, the boy also leaves messages in Aramaic, an extinct language, and has superpowers that allow him to escape prison.

"This new book I'm working on is a different thing," he said.

Batista has had plenty of experience to draw on in a career that has taken him from the Expos to the Pirates to the Expos to the Marlins to the Cubs to the Expos to the Royals to the Diamondbacks. He spent only one full season in the majors before going 11-8 with a 3.36 ERA for the D'backs this year, splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen and establishing himself as one of their most versatile and valuable pitchers.

But his true inspiration?

"I'm just like the guy from the series Dream On. I watch a lot of movies and that gives me a lot of ideas," Batista said. "I have always liked the law and I'm planning to go to law school. I don't know if it will be before I finish baseball or after, but I do."

Because Batista is such a deep thinker, he doesn't worry too much about the challenges he confronts on the field, such as pitching a World Series game at Yankee Stadium.

"I don't get all choked up about those things," Batista said. "I've got a job to do and that's what they pay me for. I don't care if it's the angels of Jesus, I have to try to pitch against them and beat them."

A sample of Miguel Batista's work:

Untitled

Somewhere out there

There is a place where I belong

Where the peace is always there

And my heart doesn't feel alone

Somewhere out there so magical

Full of fairies and waterfalls

With a pretty silver moon

That every night I can see glow

Somewhere out there where I'll be free

Of all things that make me cry

Where I can always rest my soul

And never have a broken heart

Somewhere out there where I can be

Just like a bird that flies through the sky

With the movement of his wings

And the power of his heart

-- Source: Arizona Republic

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