Head to head

If Peavy and Ethier face off this year, it will be in October. Tom DiPace for ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the April 5 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Jake Peavy's hair is pointing in several directions as he walks into the room and shakes hands with Andre Ethier, who's wearing his Dodgers cap. The White Sox righthander looks around and asks, "Do I need a hat for this?"

Nope. There's no dress code for this meeting, which takes place on a rainy Sunday morning at the teams' shared spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz. Peavy, 28, is a Cy Young winner; the 27-year-old Ethier is one of the game's best young hitters. They agreed to sit down together to review a clip of an at-bat that pitted them against each other last season, before Peavy was traded to Chicago.

It was a pivotal at-bat in a scoreless game, but in the larger context it was just one battle among the
hundreds that occur every day over the long summer. That's why we asked Peavy and Ethier to provide a mental tunnel into the world of Pitcher vs. Hitter, to explain their thought processes and reveal how each pitch becomes a crossroad that leads to the next crossroad.

As the players settle into their chairs, side by side in front of a big screen, we tell them that this at-bat took place in the eighth inning on May 1, 2009. The game was played on a cool Friday evening at Dodger Stadium in front of 47,210 fans. Neither Peavy nor Ethier could remember the outcome. We didn't tell them. Somebody hit the play button.