Column: Sports with Simmons

John Simmons

Baseball has long been considered America’s national pastime. Since the late 19th century, crowds of all ages have flocked to stadiums to behold one of the most entertaining games ever created by mankind. 

Baseball possesses an unwritten code that players are expected to follow, creating a culture of sportsmanship. Players are expected to not argue balls and strikes, run the bases briskly after a home run, and to save all brash celebrations for the dugout. This unwritten code is largely why baseball has been hailed as a gentleman’s game for decades. 

However, a new generation of young stars have challenged the norms of celebrations in recent years. Under the movement MLB has christened “Let the Kids Play,” baseball players are changing up the code of conduct on the diamond. Players are unleashing their emotions in seemingly audacious ways in an attempt to enliven the game.

Perhaps the most controversial manifestation is the way players celebrate home runs. Players like Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper and Reds right fielder Yasiel Puig have championed the bat-flip as their celebration, which would not be tolerated 20 years ago. Now, bat-flipping is perfectly normal, and players are inventing new ways to hurl their bats in celebration of dingers.

This revolution is not without its faults. The emphatic celebrations are irritating opposing pitchers, and to show their displeasure at the batters, they often intentionally hit that player in their next at bat.

Considering the history and tradition of baseball, it is understandable why many older players and fans bring an old-school mentality to the game and believe that celebrating with a bat-flip is disrespectfully showing up the opposing team. But the young players in the game today are more expressive and believe they enhance team comradery by celebrating with
their teammates.

On April 17, the Chicago White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson crushed a two-run home run in the fourth inning off Kansas City Royals pitcher Brad Keller to give the Sox a 2-0 lead. Immediately, Anderson launched his bat in the air and yelled emphatically at his own dugout, a celebration that Keller took exception to. In Anderson’s next at bat in the sixth inning, Keller intentionally hit Anderson, sending both teams into a brawl.

Instances like this are becoming more common in today’s game. This begs the question: are bat-flips and the “Let the Kid’s Play” trend harming the game? Is the desire to enliven the game through celebrations shaking the foundations of one of the most time-honored traditions in our country?

I do not think so. 

This is the MLB, the highest level of competition for professional baseball in the world. Players can celebrate in a respectful way, and if bat-flipping is the way players celebrate, so be it. Anderson’s celebration might have been distasteful, but that does not mean all bat-flipping should be banned.

I understand the frustration that pitchers must feel, since surrendering home runs is a humiliating part of a pitcher’s job. A brazen celebration like Anderson’s would further irritate a pitcher and make them want revenge. 

The most sportsmanlike way a pitcher can avenge themselves is striking out the batter the next time they step into the box. If pitchers are angry that they let up a home run, fine. Pound three straight 98-mph fastballs into the strike zone and make the batter look foolish, but do not do something petty and intentionally hit the batter.

Adding colorful celebrations to America’s classic sport will not damage its integrity, but rather free players to express themselves like never before. There is no stopping this trend, and players and audiences must prepare themselves for more celebration creativity in the future.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *