Cain only went out for baseball because he failed to make the basketball team as a ninth-grader. Getting cut from a basketball team can have a powerful effect on a teenager. The sting of getting cut inspired Michael Jordan to become the greatest basketball player ever. It inspired Cain to ask a friend about baseball.
On his first day, Cain swung the bat cross-handed, with his left hand on top. And he wore his glove on his right hand. The first fly ball hit to Cain, though, he settled under and caught it. Then, he took off his glove and threw the ball back into the infield.
There were many comical moments like that along Cain's journey, moments his teammates and coaches love to share because they demonstrate his remarkable talent and dedication.
And because of that talent and dedication 8230; there really isn't a player in baseball quite like Cain.
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What does it mean? Well, you can invent theories about how Dyson plays the outfield. But the point is that while his difference is a bit extreme, players generally run their fastest on balls they inevitably do not catch.
But not Cain. It's a strange thing. Cain is certainly fast but not blazing fast, certainly not by what we might call conventional baseball measures. Last year, he stole just 14 bases and hit one triple. On balls that end up as hits, Cain's sprint speed is 29.2 feet per second, top 15 in baseball but just so. That's fast, but it does not put him in the stratosphere with burners like Hamilton and Dyson. Cain is more in the realm of Yasiel Puig, Odubel Herrera and Denard Span, speedy players but not the ones with top speed.
Cain's RBI triple TOR@KC: Cain triples to center to knock in CuthbertLorenzo Cain rips a triple to the center-field wall in the bottom of the 5th, scoring Cheslor Cuthbert and tying the score at 3
But when a ball can be caught, it all changes. Cain transforms. His sprint speed on outs is 29.1 -- almost identical to his all-out speed -- and that suddenly puts him third in baseball, behind only the dynamic duo of Hamilton and Buxton. Something happens to Cain when he sees a baseball in range. His high school coach Barney Myers tells the story of how Cain used to be tireless and relentless in practice, even after Myers was ready to call it a day.
"When I got tired and I wanted to go home," Myers told the Kansas City Star, "I would hit the ball as far from him as I could so that he had to run."
Something about that stuck. When the ball is in reach, almost nobody chases it down like Cain. In April of last year, Houston's George Springer blooped a fly ball into shallow right-center. Cain took off after it and covered a breathtaking 30.8 feet per second, his fastest ever sprint speed. He basically turned himself into Hamilton in order to catch the ball.
Cain caught the ball without diving. You get the sense that if Cain had to go faster, he would have.
Joe Posnanski is an executive columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.