Ramsay: Let the Kids Play

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Ramsay: Let the Kids Play

(Design by David Onwukeme | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Design by David Onwukeme | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Design by David Onwukeme | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

(Design by David Onwukeme | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Brayden Ramsay

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Why is it that in today’s world of sports there is a massive noticeable decline in fan attendance at Major League Baseball games? Could it be that it’s a game that takes over two and a half hours to complete? What about it not being a full-contact sport? Maybe it’s the fact that 162 games is too long of a season?

Although these are all things could be a part of the trend, I would argue that one of the biggest reasons this happened is that the casual fan doesn’t care to watch a three-hour game with hardly any emotion being shown on the field.

Emotion is a part of the game that fans love to see. They can sense the excitement along with the players and feel as though they are part of the team.

Tiger Woods is an example of someone who broke the mold of a traditionally reserved golfer and showed emotion and intensity on the golf course. People loved to watch him play even before he was the best in the world because of his intensity and excitement. Golf tournaments take longer than a baseball game to watch, but you better believe that when Tiger was lining up for a putt, casual fans were paying attention.

When Donovan Mitchell has a poster dunk or Steph Curry hits a three-pointer from half-court, you see them flex their muscles or pound their chest. When Odell Beckham Jr. scores a touchdown or Aaron Donald gets a sack, there is usually a celebration that comes afterward. If other sports allow their players to act out, then how is it that when an MLB player flips his bat, he gets a ball thrown at his head on his next time up?

Traditionalists will say that you should play the game and act like you’ve been there before. To a certain extent, I would agree. If you hit a home run that is meaningless in a ballgame, drop the bat and jog around the bases, but if your blast wins you a playoff game, flip that bat and have fun.

Just as I say this about bat flips, I would say the same things about strikeouts or crazy plays in the field. If you come into the game ahead by one with the bases loaded and no outs, and you get out of the jam, pump your fist or let out a yell. If you make an insane run-stopping diving catch in the outfield, jump up and down and give your teammates a high five.

One of my favorite outfield groups to watch is the Boston Red Sox. Not only are they among the best in the game right now, but you can tell that they love to play baseball by the way they act. The outfield in Boston is known for celebrating big plays as well as meeting up for a final out celebration. Fans at Fenway Park are crazy baseball fans anyway, but it seemed like they fed off of these little moments of celebration in the 2018 season and enjoyed getting behind these players as they watched the Sox win the World Series for the first time since 2013.

I love watching pitcher Felix Hernandez who isn’t afraid to give a fist pump after a good performance. Something that stands out to me with Hernandez is that he does it because he is a competitor and wants to celebrate getting through an inning. His celebrations are never directed at anyone but are done in good spirits and excitement for getting a strikeout.

Excitement is a wonderful thing. It is a natural reaction to a situation after something good has happened. Everyone in the world has experienced the excitement and the momentum that comes with it in one way or another. When unwritten rules tell us that we can’t show that emotion or else it could result in a ball being thrown at you, that excitement tends to be suppressed until you get back to the dugout or clubhouse. When that excitement is not shown, the fans in the stands tend to not show as much excitement or not care as much because it doesn’t seem like anything is too big of a deal.


University of Utah sophomore infielder Matt Richardson (4) gets ready to bat during an NCAA Baseball game at the Smith’s Ballpark in Salt Lake City, Utah on Thursday, April 11, 2019. (Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

Others might say that bat flips or fist pumps are disrespecting of opposing teams or players. Respect should never be cast to the side, I would agree, and sportsmanship in any sport should be a top priority of any team and player. What I don’t agree with is that a bat flip or a fist pump is a sign of disrespect. To me, it shows that the game means something to you and that you’re excited about something that you did to help your team take a step towards victory.

In-game, five of the 2015 American League Division Series against the Texas Rangers, Jose Bautista broke a 3-3 deadlock in the bottom of the seventh with a mammoth home run. This blast would eventually help the Blue Jays to advance to the next round of the playoffs. Of course, overwhelmed with emotion in the moment, Bautista flipped his bat before rounding the bases.

In a regular-season matchup the next year against the Rangers, Bautista was hit in the leg as retaliation for his bat flip celebration. Bautista’s hard slide into second to break up a double play a few pitches later didn’t help the cause as Texas’ Roughned Odor punched him in the face, causing a massive melee.

Was there disrespect behind the original bat flip? No. But because of the unwritten rules of baseball, the Rangers reacted, the two teams fought, and Major League Baseball was given a bad rap.

Similar things have happened this year with multiple fights breaking out between the Cincinnati Reds and the Pittsburgh Pirates after the Pirates couldn’t let go of Derek Dietrich admiring a home run before rounding the bases. There wasn’t much hostility between the two teams beforehand, and all Dietrich did was stare for two seconds at a ball he just hit 400 feet to put his team ahead in the game.

Fast forward three months to June 30. Here we are, watching Dietrich get a 97 mph fastball thrown at his face because he watched a home run soar over the wall a few months ago. A fight ensued between the two teams, resulting in players and coaches getting suspended.

The Kansas City Royals also couldn’t get past a Tim Anderson bat flip and hit him in the leg his next time up. Anderson tried to calm the situation down by walking to first base and motioning to the pitcher that he understood why he was thrown at. Unfortunately, the Royals dugout wasn’t having it, and the White Sox bench made their way to the first base line. Eventually, this scene turned into a fight between the Royals and White Sox.

If there has been a history between the two opposing teams beforehand and someone bat flips purely out of disrespect, then, of course, that’s wrong. I would argue though, that if there is no sign of disrespect when a bat flip or fist pump occurs, then retaliation is not warranted. A massive problem in the world today is that people are getting offended over everything they can, and some people even do this to stir up contention. I would argue that the retaliation against some of the occurring bat flips would fall into that same category.

Would it benefit the game of baseball to allow players to bat flip, fist pump, get excited, and show emotion? Absolutely it would. I would argue that the casual fan would be more inclined to not only go to games but to be invested in them and become a follower of baseball. True fans aren’t going to mind if a baseball game is three hours long, or 162 games per season. They’ll still enjoy going to games and appreciating the skill and tactics it takes to play baseball, but they’ll also be able to see a side of players they weren’t able to see before. Stars can show a passion and excitement for the game while not looking at every fist pump or bat flip as a sign of disrespect and dirty play.

A common phrase being said around Major League Baseball is “let the kids play.” If getting people in seats is on the priority list of Major League Baseball’s players and coaches, then allowing players to show excitement and celebrate every now and again should be one of the first things to happen. Let the kids play.

@brayden_ramsay

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