Stepping in the bucket, as it's called — watch the first minute of the video below for an explanation — was one of the problems that plagued young Jordan Cohn as I attempted to traverse the treacherous landscape of rec baseball. I was undersized and a little bit timid to begin with, so when I was hit in the thigh with a devastating 45 mph heater from my league's equivalent to Aroldis Chapman, my approach became even less aggressive. From then on, I'd resort to stepping in the bucket, which rendered me pretty much unusable at the plate.
But stepping in the bucket isn't exclusively reserved for 4-foot-3 nine year olds. It also happens to be an issue that plagues Major Leaguers, with an emphasis on taller batters given their frame. Just ask Richie Sexson, who came in at 6-foot-7, 205 pounds and enjoyed a 12-year career for a number of franchises. He stopped by Bret Boone's podcast to discuss multiple topics, one of which was how taller players like himself and Aaron Judge are faced with a unique set of challenges thanks to their stature.
"...There's a lot of moving parts in a tall dude, and Judge is a great example," Sexson said. "He's a better all-around, probably, hitter than I was, I would say, but he has the same problems. And when I watch Yankees games I just wanna call him and go, god, I know what he's doing wrong, I know what he's doing wrong."
Maybe one day he will, Sexson says, though he added that he's sent a text to Yankees manager Aaron Boone with some advice.
"...I'll shoot something to Aaron [Boone] once in a while and just say, Boone, he's obviously conscious of the inside pitch because he's in the bucket, and these pitchers with the analytics and all the stats we've been throwing on them... they find a hole on you and they attack, and that's the difference in the big leagues," Sexson said. "They attack it until you figure it out and readjust, and Judge and I obviously had to readjust more than most, so it is tougher."
They truly don't have too many other major leaguers with which they can compare their difficulties. According to Baseball Reference, there are only a handful of players that stood at 6-foot-7 or taller, and an even smaller handful — which pretty much consists of Frank Howard, Tony Clark, Sexson and Judge — were successful batters.
Another similarity between Judge and Sexson? They both led the league in strikeouts in a season, putting a slight damper on their impressive power stats. However, Sexson thinks Judge has it a little easier based on what today's game looks like.
"Strikeouts are gonna come with [hitting home runs] and you're gonna have to deal with that, and I think the media and the fans are a little more tolerable about strikeouts these days, maybe than they were when we were playing," Sexson said. "Everything's just different and, you know, being Judge and being taller dudes, there's just a lot more moving parts that you've gotta constantly be tinkering with."
So before you look at Aaron Judge and think that someone of his impressive physique has an inherent advantage in MLB — and he does, in some respects — remember that there's also a downside that presents some tough problems to work around.