Must-click link: Playing the game “the right way” is a relative thing

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Former major league catcher John Baker has a great article up over at Fox’s Just A Bit Outside. It’s about one of your favorite topics around here: “playing the game the right way.” and what it really means:

The longer I played baseball, the more I realized that across America, that cliché – Play the game the right way – actually means something very specific: Play the game MY way.

And that “my way” means something very different to different people everywhere. Specifically, he has a great anecdote about his time in the Dominican winter league, where the constant celebrations, bat flips and the sorts of things that could get a guy thrown at or punched in the big leagues is actually a sign of respect and love for the game to others:

The next day I asked some of the local players why they participated in what I’d been taught was excessive celebratory behavior. Their consensus answer was perfect and humbling. They explained that most of them hadn’t spent much time in school beyond fifth grade, and they practiced baseball all day because they didn’t want to chop sugar cane in the fields or do laundry at Casa De Campo, the main resort in town. Job opportunities were slim, and job opportunities with potential upside were nearly nonexistent. They weren’t flipping the bat to show up the pitcher. They were flipping the bat to show everyone watching that they appreciated where they were, and that they really, truly loved playing baseball. They pimped everything, and it was awesomely poetic.

He learned this from a Padres prospect who was also playing down in the Dominican and who showed him one excellent bit of celebratory flair after a homer in a winter ball game. You may be interested to learn who that prospect was. And it may change your perspective on what “playing the game the right way” really means.

Excellent piece by Baker. And a good reminder that the “right way” we’re so often told about is just one way. One way favored by guys who learned to play in one particular part of the world. Well, they have no monopoly on the “right way” and we should not expect anyone, let alone everyone else, to conform to it.