The Day Ron Kittle Played Cricket

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Friday, May 13, 2016

The White Sox welcomed the International Cricket Council (ICC) yesterday for a sports demonstration, where 1983 American League Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle, an international cricket legend and U.S.A. cricket prospects took a swing at both cricket and baseball on the iconic green grass at U.S. Cellular Field. The demonstration was a kick-off event for the ICC’s four-day combine in Bolingbrook, Illinois, on May 12-15.

Megan Golden, the Sox’ coordinator of media services, was on hand and reports the following:

“I might need my sunglasses,” White Sox legend Ron Kittle told a few employees before hitting the diamond at U.S. Cellular Field yesterday. “Overcast skies can sometimes lead to a glare.”

Kittle wasn’t exactly in his comfort zone as he faced off with members of the International Cricket Council and it wasn’t only because of the glare. Cathryn Fitzpatrick, former Australian female national cricket coach and one-time world’s fastest pace bowler, and U.S.A. cricket prospects Fahad Babar and Ali Khan were eager to see how Kittle’s baseball skills translated to their sport.

“People say they are the same, but it’s actually a different game,” Khan said. “It looks easy, but it’s not. It’s two different games. If you see it technically, it’s totally different.”

For instance, In cricket, there is no foul territory. The average speed of a fast ball is 87 miles per hour. Each cricket match averages 10 “sixes,” which are the cricket equivalent of home runs. Fans who catch a six bare-handed are awarded big prizes.

Kittle began by warming up in shallow left field, catching soft fly balls hit by Babar and Khan. He then faced the left-field fence and took a few swings of his own with a cricket bat. His first attempt landed in the left-field bleachers and drew a loud applause from the cricketers.

The group then moved to the indoor batting cages. Kittle handed Khan a baseball bat and explained the proper way to swing. In cricket, the ball is bounced into the batsman, and the batsman must use a golf-like swing to make contact.

Kittle also tossed a few knuckleballs toward home plate.

“Yeah, that’s not good,” Kittle said, laughing, after Khan’s first swing. Given a few slight adjustments and a couple practice swings, Khan began making solid contact. Kittle added, “I want a glove for protection.”

Unlike baseball players, cricketers do not use gloves when they field the ball. According to the group, there are many broken hands due to bare-handed catches.

Fitzpatrick ended the demonstration by fearlessly challenging Kittle to try and hit the cricket ball with a baseball bat as she threw the ball as quickly as she could.

“That’s not good, is it?” she asked Kittle after her first bowl bounced in front of home plate. Kittle joked, “In cricket it is.”

“He did try and made a couple excuses,” Fitzpatrick joked. “I think he still did okay, to be honest. He managed to tap one of the cricket balls into the stands.”

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