So there’s been a lot of talk during Spring Training this year about “showing respect for the game” – whatever that means. Usually, it’s the Old School Traditionalists decrying the number of bat flips and fist pumps, insisting that showing a little emotion during a game is an offense to the other team, the fans, and everyone who ever had anything whatsoever to do with professional baseball. Naturally, a lot of younger players disagree, saying that they should be allowed to have fun on the job. Baseball is too stuffy and old-fashioned to attract many new fans….
Now I don’t like the showboating that’s far too common in football and basketball, but there’s no reason that baseball players have to be soulless robots.
Just keep in mind a few rules when celebrating….
1. Never insult nor taunt an opponent.
“Bench jockeying” is okay, as long as you do it from the dugout and never refer a player’s family. On the field, have a little professional courtesy. Those guys are trying to earn a living, too. And you might be teammates very soon.
2. Don’t be crude or vulgar.
Leave the crotch-grabbing in the NFL.
3. Don’t do something so outrageous that it disrupts the pace of play.
As David Ortiz recently noted, sometimes after a big home run, your body is twisted in a way that makes it hard to immediately start running towards first base, and you’re all out of breath from the effort. So if you pause a minute to unkink and catch your breath, it’s understandable. The way baseball is structured, there are built-in pauses between at-bats and even pitches. So there’s time for an occasional fist-pump. But don’t get too crazy….
4. Keep the context in mind.
Given the situation, this celebration was perfectly understandable and acceptable:
A home run that gave your team a big lead late in a “Win or Go Home” playoff game in front of your home crowd? Yes, you are allowed a bat flip and to have a little celebration with your teammates after you cross the plate. A milestone home run? A grand slam that gives you the lead against a divisional rival in a tight pennant race? Yes, I can see a bat flip or fist pump as you head towards first base. But a meaningless home run in a meaningless game late in the season? You’re getting decked the next pitch you see if you so much as hesitate going around the bases.
There’s nothing wrong with showing some youthful exuberance at appropriate times as you play the game. Just be moderate and reasonable about it.