ON BAT FLIPS AND CELLYS.
As a fan, I love bat flips. Pimp everything, I often hashtag on Twitter. Some of that mantra is definitely tongue in cheek but ultimately I love watching players enjoying the moment. Same goes for pitchers who fist pump after firing a bullet past a hitter during a pivotal at-bat during the game. Some view them as a disrespectful showing up of a pitcher or an opposing team (the "act like a professional" crowd) but, to me, the bat flips are a fun way to show emotion during a sport which is essentially glorified stickball.
So that brings me to this...
Take this number from a University of South Carolina-Aiken hitter. The dude hammers a pitch in which the players on the field barely move. It's a tank shot grand slam. Big moment, big shot. The player decides to flip (launch?) the bat in the air, sending it spinning end over end.
Frankly, to me, it's fun. To the coach of the USC Aiken team it was highly disrespectful:
"We had a player do a stupid think last night after hitting a grand slam," USC-Aiken's coach Kenny Thomas wrote on his Facebook page. "I immediately took him out of the game and apologized to North Greenville Coach (sp). Those of you that know me know I DO NOT condone this type of actions or this type of disrespect for the game."
First, as was pointed out on Twitter, the language the coach used contains a lot of "I"s. That's a terrible attitude for an amateur coach to have at any level. Focus on the "we" not the "you". Second, lighten up. As was pointed out before, this is a glorified kids game. Third, this is Division 2 baseball. Most if not all players on the roster have very little likelihood of making the jump to professional baseball so this is as close as they will get. Let them enjoy the moment.
We have just wrapped up the World Baseball Classic, which by any measure was a good display of how different cultures celebrate big moments. Not all players agreed with the flare that some of the Caribbean players showed during the tournament.
"I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays," Kinsler told The New York Times. "That's not taking anything away from them. That just wasn't the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way."
And Bert Blyleven, protector of the precious baseball code, chimed in. "There's a fine line between showing emotion & being 'a hot dog.' Some guys on PR were 'hot dogging'," he said recently on MLB Network radio. Twins Daily’s John Bonnes correctly pointed out that the line between the two is thick, the difference maker being which team you are on.
What constitutes “hot dogging”? Was the USC-Aiken kid “hot dogging”? Is this “hot dogging”?
Yadier Molina has the Dominican’s Nelson Cruz out by a mile and Javier Baez, who is quite good at applying tags, converts a no-look, point-at-your-backstop catch and tag. It was equal parts impressive and fun.
The game of baseball has been accused of "dying" far too often. While MLB itself is still making a ton of money, the majority of the viewership has AARP cards. For various reasons, the youth have been tuning out in droves. In response, MLB has done asinine things like adding a pace of play clock, eliminating the pitches in the intentional walk, and trying to introduce slow-pitch softball rules to avoid extra inning play all while still choosing to broadcast their crown jewel international event’s championship game at 9 PM Eastern Time on a weeknight, ensuring that a vast amount of young kids will not stay up to watch the end of the game.
MLB doesn’t need to plod through this rules overhaul crusade it seems to be hell bent on conducting in order to recapture the youth market. People don’t want crisper pace of play or a quick end to a contest. They want fun. To that end, the game’s culture needs to embrace the flair and flips not discourage it.
I'm not suggesting this will solve all of the game's problems but it can't hurt.
Make baseball fun again.