I once experienced a day that contained all the elements of a pitcher's success in High School. I had control, Hack Robbins behind the plate, with a great repertoire of pitches: three different fastballs, three different curveballs and a psychological advantage: I had a history of effectiveness against one particular hitter. He didn't think he could hit me!
Some days when warming up, one senses that the ball will go where one points the foot! Fluid motion and complete control of one's body, a certain consistent athleticism results in a regularity of throwing strikes, without concern of pitch selection: the ball will go where one wants it to end up!
This in combination of Hack Robbins behind the plate made a great strike zone. Mr. Robbins had the classic image of an umpire: short squat, deep raspy voice, and build like a tank. Even his name exuded umpire: Hack! He loved the black corners of the plate to the chagrin of hitters and to the delight of pitchers. He called out balls and strikes decisively like a medieval executioner brings down his ax on the condemned man. There was something definitive about him. I loved pitching when Hack Robbins was the umpire!
On one bright sunny day in July, I took to the mound and felt warm. My control was there that day: I could throw the ball exactly where I wanted to throw. At bat, was the leading home-run hitter in the league with 18! with Hack Robbins calling Balls and Strikes. I was not so concerned because I felt good about pitch selection and placement that day and additionally I had great success over the years with this fellow. [As a matter of fact we shared the same Little League team at one time and although we ended up at different High Schools we truly never lacked respect for each other.] I knew, however, that his slump with me bothered him; he never hit a home run off me.
Ironically, that day I did not need Hack Robbin's wide strike zone. It turned out that my old former Little League teammate jumped at my pitches determined to end his slump. The scouting report that we had on him was that he liked to pull the ball. So I took a chance and placed an overhand fast ball up and in at armpit height and he turned on that pitch like a major league'r crushing the ball so far that had it stayed fair it would have been a Home Run in any ballpark! The pitch was clearly out of the strike-zone. I decided to come in with an overhand curve ball that would start out of the strike-zone and break in on his fists. As the ball broke down I could tell that my old teammate was not fooled and followed the trajectory of the pitch and met the ball shoulder high. He crushed this one too. This one too arched horizontally foul. Now I was ahead in the count, 0-2 with the best power hitter in the league apprehensive. I had the psychological advantage. I knew he eventually would have to adjust to defensive hitting; he needed to protect the plate to stay alive. I was to waste a pitch. I threw a side-armed fast ball that tailed away from a right handed hitter. I threw it low and away, a great spot and possibly in the strike zone according to Hack Robbins. The umpire did not have to make the call. The batter must have decided that the ball was close enough to be called a strike so he lunged for the ball across the plate swinging weakly and lamely. "STRIKE THREE YER OUUUUT!!!" cried Mr. Robbins casting down his ax!
That feeling of accomplishment with the strike out is the closest analogy I can think of to the definition of the Simcha Shel Mitzva: the sense of doing everything right; having all the elements of success in the performance of a Divine commandment [L'Havdil!]