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With alcohol out of the clubhouse, clubhouse culture changes

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Bob Nightengale has a good article up today talking about the culture of alcohol in the clubhouse:

“I lived a lifestyle like 90% of ballplayers,” Proctor says. “You sat around and had six beers after a game, went to dinner and had another six, and then guys are calling you to a bar where you’re drinking more.

“That wasn’t right. I know it wasn’t right for me. But as far as guys talking about the game over a few beers, I really think baseball misses that.”

That excerpt pretty much groks the entire nature of the thing. An alcoholic noting that the old ways of teams abiding heavy drinking among ballplayers are all but resigned to history, noting that it’s for the best, but also noting that something has been lost as a result.

The article itself doesn’t go into it, but obviously good things are gained too. Things which far outweigh that loss of beery camaraderie. Like fitter athletes who do not drive while drunk at rates that their predecessors likely did. Indeed, Nightegale points out something I hadn’t noticed: we’ve only had one DUI incident this spring training, involving a minor leaguer. Seems like most years we have many more. Perhaps players are starting to get the message.

Something else I like about the story is how Proctor and even Mark Grace, who is currently serving time in jail for drunk driving, don’t make the change in clubhouse drinking culture out to be some stark good vs. evil thing. Rather, they acknowledge that there are tradeoffs involved, even if they are necessary. I know that there are many ways to sobriety and responsible drinking for those who have trouble with alcohol, but sometimes I wonder if casting drinking into a stark good/evil light like some people do make said sobriety and responsibility harder for some folks, especially those who aren’t equipped to handle self-criticism and self-examination that they feel may force them to deny a part of their past was a mixed bag even if they were on a bad path.  I’m sure Scott Proctor has some good memories of his drinking days. It seems healthy to me that he can look back fondly on some of them even if he knows he can’t ever relive them lest he risk everything.

Sorry, I know that was a bit of a tangent. But I tend to like stories where the moral is kind of ambivalent like this. Given how complicated most things in life are, there should be more of them.

Mike Matheny tried to have his own son picked off at first base

PHOENIX, AZ - AUGUST 26: Manager Mike Matheny #26 of the St Louis Cardinals looks on from the dugout during the first inning of a MLB game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on August 26, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Cardinals defeated the Diamondbacks 3-1. (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
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Cardinals manager Mike Matheny has a son, Tate, who was selected by the Red Sox in the fourth round of the 2015 draft out of Missouri State University. Tate, an outfielder, spent the 2015 season with Low-A Lowell and last year played at Single-A Greenville.

Now in spring camp with the Red Sox, Tate is trying to continue his ascent through the minor league system. On Monday afternoon in a game against his father’s Cardinals, Tate pinch-ran after Xander Bogaerts singled to center field to lead off the bottom of the fifth inning. Mike wasn’t about to let his son catch any breaks. Via Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

That’s right: Mike tried to have his own son picked off at first base. That’s just cold, man.

Tate was erased shortly thereafter when Mookie Betts grounded into a 6-4-3 double play. Tate got his first at-bat in the seventh and struck out.

Do we really need metal detectors at spring training facilities?

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Craig Calcaterra
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MESA, AZ — Over the past couple of seasons we’ve, more or less, gotten used to the sight of metal detectors at major league ballparks. And the sight of long lines outside of them, requiring us to get to the park a bit earlier or else risk missing some of the early inning action.

Like so much else over the past fifteen and a half years, we’re given assurances by people in charge that it’s for “security,” and we alter our lives and habits accordingly. This despite the fact that security experts have argued that it’s a mostly useless and empty exercise in security theater. More broadly, they’ve correctly noted that it’s a cynical and defeatist solution in search of a problem. But hey, welcome to 21st Century America.

And welcome metal detectors to spring training:

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Beginning this year, Major League Baseball is mandating that all spring training facilities use some form of metal detection, be it walkthrough detectors like the ones shown here at the Giants’ park in Scottsdale or wands like the one being used on the nice old lady above at the Cubs facility in Mesa.

I asked Major League Baseball why they are requiring them in Florida and Arizona. They said that the program was not implemented in response to any specific incident or threat at a baseball game, but are “precautionary measures.” They say that metal detection “has not posed significant inconvenience or taken away from the ballpark experience” since being required at big league parks in 2015 and believe it will work the same way at the spring training parks.They caution fans, however, that, as the program gets underway, they should allow for more time for entry.

And that certainly makes sense:

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I took this photo a few minutes after the home plate gate opened at Sloan Park yesterday afternoon. As I noted this morning, the Cubs sell out every game in their 15,000-seat park. That’s a lot of wanding and, as a result, it could lead to a lot of waiting.

But the crowds here all seemed to get through the line pretty quickly. Perhaps because the wanding is not exactly a time-consuming affair:

Not every security guard was as, well, efficient as this guy. But hardly anyone walking through the gate was given a particularly thorough go-over. I saw several hundred people go through the procedure soon after the gates opened and most of them weren’t scanned bellow the level of their hip pockets. I went back a little closer to game time when most people were already in the park and the lines were shorter. The procedure was a bit more deliberate then, though not dramatically so. This is all new for the security people too — spring training just started — and it’s fair to say that they are trying hard to balance the needs of their new precautionary measures against the need to keep the lines moving and the fans happy.

On this day at least it seemed that fan happiness was winning. I spoke with several fans after they got through the gates and none of them offered much in the way of complaint about being wanded. The clear consensus: it’s just what we do now. We have metal detectors and cameras at schools and places of work and security procedures have been ratcheted up dramatically across the board. That we now have them at ballparks is not surprising to anyone, really. It’s just not a thing anyone thinks to question.

And so they don’t.