Cole Hamels, Matt Kemp to grace Big League Chew packaging

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If you played Little League baseball as a kid, the sight of Big League Chew wrappers lining the ground inside the dugout is an all too familiar scene. The wrappers, commonly graced with the visages of angry, muscly baseball players, will be getting a facelift. ESPN’s Darren Rovell has the details:

Shredded gum brand Big League Chew will debut national packaging that will feature an active athlete — Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp — instead of the cartoon characters that have existed on more than 500 million pouches since Big League Chew first hit shelves 33 years ago. In June, a picture of Kemp will adorn the front of the gum package.

The brand, through a partnership with PLB Sports, a maker of athlete-endorsed food products, also has signed Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels.

As Sean Manning notes for Esquire, it isn’t the first time Big League Chew has had real players adorn its packaging. Hall of Famers Juan Marichal, Billy Williams, and Brooks Robinson were part of the program for a promotion in the late 1990’s.

Video: Phillies rookies dance to “Greased Lightning”

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As per tradition, towards the end of the regular season, veterans on baseball’s various clubs haze the rookies by making them dress up and do something a bit embarrassing. That used to include things like making rookies dress up like women and carry pink backpacks, but Major League Baseball banned that practice, so veterans had to get marginally more creative.

The Phillies had their rookies — including Rhys Hoskins, J.P. Crawford, and Nick Williams — dress up like characters in Grease and perform “Greased Lightning” at their hotel in Atlanta on Friday night. Not only did the Phils’ vets and other members of the crew get a free show, but so did employees of the hotel and nearby hotel patrons.

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As MLB.com’s Todd Zolecki explains, Hoskins was the inspiration for the gag as he has earned the nickname “Rhys Lightning.” (Rhys, for the uninitiated, rhymes with “Grease.”) Hoskins said, “You always hear about team chemistry. I think stuff like that let’s you get to know guys on a different level, when you’re not at the field. You just become more personable with people. The better relationships you have, there’s a different level of playing for each other. And I think that’s usually a sign of a good team.”

The Twins also had some fun at the rookies’ expense:

Video: Aaron Judge hits 47th, 48th homers, now one shy of tying Mark McGwire’s rookie record

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Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge went yard twice in Sunday afternoon’s 9-5 loss to the Blue Jays, bringing his season total up to 48. That leaves him just one home run shy of tying the single-season rookie record set by Mark McGwire with the Athletics in 1987.

After Sunday’s performance, Judge is hitting .281/.416/.610 with 48 home runs, 105 RBI, and 122 runs scored in 651 plate appearances. He has the AL Rookie of the Year Award on lock and is neck-and-neck with the Astros’ Jose Altuve, Chris Sale of the Red Sox, and the Indians’ Corey Kluber in the AL MVP Award race.