Mark Mulder has a theory about pitching, and how it relates to his current obsession.
“Think of it this way: What are the only things in sports that are similar to pitching? Golf and shooting a free throw,” Mulder said by phone recently. “Nothing can happen in (baseball) until I throw that pitch. Nothing can happen in golf until I hit that ball. … If it’s hockey, if it’s a quarterback, if it’s shooting a 3-pointer, it’s a reaction. Those are all reactions. You just react to the play. Think about it: The only people who get the yips are pitchers and golfers.”
In the spirit of the World Cup, I would add the penalty kick to the short list of nothing-happens-till-I-say-so moments.
Mulder believes his theory explains why so many pitchers are good golfers. And you could point to the American Century Championship as proof. It’s a star-studded event that will include the likes of Stephen Curry, Marcus Allen, Doug Pederson, Ray Romano and Dan Quayle when it tees off at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in South Lake Tahoe, Nevada, from July 13-15. Former MLB hurler Rick Rhoden has won the tournament eight times, more than anyone else, and last year’s Top 10 included Derek Lowe and John Smoltz.
Mulder could end up as the best golfer in the rotation. The former member of the A’s “Big Three” starting pitchers is in the process of reinventing his sports legacy. He has won the American Century each of the past three years.
Mulder, who finished second in American League Cy Young voting in 2001 and made two starts in the National League Championship Series for the St. Louis Cardinals, pitched his last major-league game when he was 30 years old. A shredded rotator cuff cut short his career. But Mulder may be just getting warmed up as a golfer. His margin of victory at the American Century is growing annually.
“I guess you could say I’m kind of an athletic person,” Mulder said with hesitation.
Uhh, yeah. And golf was always on his radar. He started playing in elementary school, when he lived in the Chicago suburb of South Holland, Illinois. Mulder figures he was in about fifth grade when he saved enough money from his paper route to buy a $20 resident card at his local public course, River Oaks.
“As a kid, I could play it for three dollars,” Mulder said. “So I would go there with a five-dollar bill. My mom would drop my brother and I off. I had three bucks to play, carrying your bag. Buck-fifty for a hot dog and a Coke at the turn, and two quarters to call my mom after the round.”
That went on into high school, when baseball crowded out Mulder’s other pastimes. He didn’t play much golf at Michigan State, but he started up again after the A’s drafted him in 1998. He moved to Arizona for Rookie League and never left. Suddenly Mulder had ample downtime and a climate that encouraged year-round golf.
“I’d go into the A’s complex around 8, 9 in the morning,” he said. “We’d work out, a handful of us, and we’d tee off by noon, probably every other day.”