CARLOS GOMEZ KNOWED he had to call Fernando Tatis Jr.
After Tatis scored a controversial Grand Slam in the eighth inning of an August 17 game against Texas Rangers last season, Gomez, a former Major League outfielder, named the San Diego Padres shortstop. Tatis’ slam was a violation of the unwritten rules of baseball and was interpreted as an attempt to increase the score. It came out on a 3-0 place, his team was seven runs ahead.
Tatis was even criticized by his own manager Jayce Tingler, who suggested that Tatis should have held the bat on his shoulder instead of swinging it.
“He’s young, a free spirit and focused and all those things,” said Tingler after the game. “This is the last thing we’ll ever take away. It’s a learning opportunity, and that’s it. It will grow from it.”
Tatis apologized for the etiquette violation.
“I’ve been in this game since I was a kid,” said Tatis. “I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was somehow lost. You have to learn these experiences. I will probably do a pitch next time.”
But Gomez didn’t have it – and he needed Tatis to hear it.
“I disagree that you apologized,” Gomez told Tatis. “Apology for Nothing. “
As a player who regularly pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable during a 13-year career in the major leagues that ended two years ago, Gomez held an apology for the last thing anyone had to hear.
“I called him and said, ‘Hey boy, keep doing what you’re doing. You’re not doing anything wrong,'” said Gomez, who had played with Tatis’ father for a short time more than a decade ago and had the exuberance of one Young Tatis seen at the clubhouse. “I put it this way that he doesn’t feel like a bad guy. I say, ‘In my career I’ve swing 3-0 four times in 13 years. How many homers? One. How many flyballs? Two. One hit and one Missed shot. So it doesn’t matter. We’re not a machine. ‘”
Gomez was on to something. In the days that followed, players and fans came to Tatis’ defense.
“You just have to pitch better if you don’t want that to happen,” he said. tweeted Red Sox pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez.
“The 3-0 swing shouldn’t break the rules, regardless of the score.” tweeted Right-handed Collin McHugh.
“Everyone should score 3-0” tweeted Baseball legend Johnny Bench. “Grand slams are a huge statistic.”
Tingler would also decline some of his criticisms. “They’re trying to kick our a– and we’re trying to kick their a– and win,” said Tingler. “That’s the bottom line. We can’t sit here and worry about people’s feelings.”
By October, Tatis’ style of play would not only be defended but also celebrated – enough to land him and his now iconic wildcard bat flip on the cover of MLB The Show, the league’s signature video game.
Major league baseball field culture has long alienated those who didn’t fit with a particular idea – the white, American kind – of the sport. Even with more than a quarter of players born outside the US, the idea that MLB is a showcase for multiculturalism is often more ambitious than reality.
And the game is not played everywhere according to the unwritten rules of the states. There is more expressiveness in the Dominican Republic, where both Tatis and Gomez were born. There is palpable joy. In Asia, whether in Korea or Japan, massive bat flips are an integral part of the game.
Although Gomez didn’t play in the major leagues until 2019, in the short time since leaving the stage, he’s seen it start spinning. The culture of baseball is changing on and off the field of play, and attitudes are changing not just about haunted celebrations but personal flair through fashion and social media, in large part with an undeniable racist subtext.
“I’m retired now and I say, ‘Why are you letting everyone do what they want now?’ I think I’m in the wrong time, “said Gomez. “I should be [playing] Now i’m doing a show! “
Although it took a long time and there is still a long way to go, the game continues to evolve. The following seems to drive this overnight.
The bat flip that changed baseball
Jose Bautista tells Joon Lee that he was “kind of blacked out” before his bat flip after the homer in Game 5 of the 2015 ALDS.
JOSE BAUTISTA NEVER likely to be known for a bat flip.
Of all the moments in his 15-year career with the majors, fans speak to him the most to talk the most about his home run in Game 5 of the 2015 American League Division Series. The then-Blue Jays bat from Toronto hit a three-start homer in the seventh inning of Rangers reliever Sam Dyson before throwing his bat and circling the bases in what has become an iconic moment in baseball history.
“I wasn’t a notorious bat flipper,” said Bautista. “I’ve done it maybe two or three times in my entire career that I can remember. I didn’t feel like a notorious bat flipper, but now I’m kind of known for it. It’s kind of weird.”
Mainly because he doesn’t even remember doing it.
“I kind of went black after the swing when I heard the roar of the crowd and the emotions of the moment,” said Bautista. “I don’t really remember anything special until I caught my breath on the bench.”
At the beginning of his career, Bautista struggled to contain his emotions on the baseball field. After many conversations with coaches – and arguments with referees – Bautista slowly learned to bottle his emotions in hopes of presenting an acceptable facade without violating the cultural norms of the sport, where people value stoicism above all else.
“Everyone imitates it. I do it from the left side. I’m like, boom, and I throw the bat out and we throw it 20 feet in the air. … [Jose Bautista] was a pioneer of it, broke the glass and said, ‘Let the locks roll in.’ ”
Seattle Mariners outfielder Taylor Trammell
“I’ve heard comments from people that go, ‘I thought you were a hole’ or ‘I thought you were a head. Once I meet you, I understand why you get it so upset,” said Bautista. “Man, I struggle with this, I can’t really explain it; it’s just the way I handle things. I got better at it as I got older, but that was one of the biggest struggles of my career to control my reaction or my temper. “
What once hurt Bautista’s reputation in the eyes of some of the major leagues – his emotions and his passion – eventually became a lasting, celebrated legacy. The 2015 bat flip became one of baseball’s greatest moments on social media.
For younger players like Seattle Mariners’ 23-year-old outfielder Taylor Trammell, who was in high school at the time, Bautista’s bat flip was monumental.
“Everyone imitates it,” said Trammell. “I do it from the left side. I’m like, boom, and I throw the bat out and we throw it 20 feet in the air. We hum that thing and it was like,” Wow, we’re having so much fun. ” [Bautista] was a pioneer of it, broke the glass and said, ‘Let the locks roll in.’ “
For baseball lifters like Eduardo Perez, who grew up in Major League clubhouses as the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez before embarking on his own 13-year MLB career, bat flipping was viewed as unsportsmanlike. Now as a broadcaster for ESPN, Perez said the context of the moment shapes adoption.
“When you’re down a few runs and do a bat flip and take time to bask and party like you’ve just won a championship or taken your team to another level, it’s like, ‘Come on, Dude do you know where you are? “Said Perez. “‘You know the moment and you know the situation.'”
The enforcement of unwritten rules has always been determined by the current context in baseball history. Jackie Robinson was forced to follow unwritten rules designed for him after signing with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945. Robinson promised Dodger’s owner, Branch Rickey, that if others tried to bait him with bows and bait taunts, he would fight back with nothing more than his performance on the field. In this way, Robinson rewrote an actual written rule – the one that banned black players from the league.
Over the decades, the code continued, although not all actors who defied cultural norms were ostracized. Latin American players like Luis Tiant, who turned his back on the batsman in mid-wind-up, Juan Marichal, whose leg hovered over his head when releasing pitches, and Manny Ramirez, who once caught a member of the crowd playing in the middle of a game, all became Cult heroes within the sport. Still, his signature baseball cap, often criticized, only became a central part of an MLB marketing strategy long after the resignation of Ken Griffey Jr.
Gomez, who was never afraid to show his feelings on the field, said he was used to opponents mistaking his joyous exuberance as disrespect. He has often been the target of retaliation or harsh criticism from opposing fans.
“I only express myself when I play baseball. I never think, ‘I’m going to do this, I’m going to bat, I’m going to slide and point to the dugout.’ No, no, no, “said Gomez. “I just let the moment flow and sometimes I get pointed out that I’m the bad guy for doing things like that.”
“This is the first time I’ve talked about this but it’s the truth because when people say you are a criminal when you are not, how are you going to feel? … you get angry. You gave feel like a bad guy for playing the game like that. ”
Former Major Leaguer Carlos Gomez on how he was referred to as a “thug” led to bouts of insomnia and depression.
A series of events in 2013 tested these limits. In June of that year, Gomez, then with the Milwaukee Brewers, competed against leftist Paul Maholm of the Atlanta Braves – a pitcher he had always had success against and who hit with two homers .450 / .500 / .850 in 20 bats in his career. Maholm fell on his knee. When the two competed again in September, Gomez drilled a homer. Believing the pitch hit earlier in the season was disrespectful, Gomez took extra time to admire his explosion.
“I didn’t respect the team, I agree, but the pitcher didn’t respect me,” said Gomez. “So the team has to tell him, ‘Hey, you did that. You hit him for no reason, so he hit a homer and he didn’t respect everyone.’ It’s not a good thing, but as a man I feel like he doesn’t respect me. This is the only way to get the business done in the field. “
It wasn’t the first time his style of play had been questioned, but when fans referred to Gomez as a “thug” on social media in 2013, the racist connotations of the word weighed heavily on him. This label, and the likes he heard throughout his career, led to attacks of depression and insomnia.
“This is the first time I’ve talked about it, but it’s the truth because when people say you are a criminal when you are not, how are you going to feel?” Said Gomez. “Everyone says, ‘You are a criminal. You are a criminal.’ … And it’s not you, then you will start to think, “No, you are wrong.” You are getting angry.
“You made me feel like a bad guy for playing the game like that.”
Gomez points out that much of the attitudes towards his style of play have changed, not necessarily because of racial tolerance, but because of capitalism. Other leagues and athletes are forcing MLB to see how this new generation of players can be marketed.
“So that’s why kids watch these other sports more because it’s more fun,” said Gomez. “It’s more fun to watch. It’s different, more commercial, more flowing. Baseball, we didn’t have that. You need this because of the new generation. My kid goes to the batting cage and it knocks over.”
According to many young players, it was Bautista’s homerun that made bat flips more acceptable – even for opposing pitchers.
“When I was moving through the small leagues and getting to the big leagues, nobody really cared, man. I don’t really care, man,” said Lucas Giolito, who is 26 I think that’s a good clip on Twitter. It might pique interest if some guy does a massive bat flip or something. “
Forbearance from partying and bat flipping can vary from team to team. While players at the White Sox clubhouse promote personality and individuality, others like the St. Louis Cardinals emphasize “The Cardinal Way,” what outfielder Harrison Bader heard early on from veterans like Adam Wainwright and Dexter Fowler.
“Everyone would be talking about ‘The Cardinal Way’ of baseball. A lot of those outlines don’t break unwritten rules, play the game the right way, that sort of thing,” Bader said. “It’s really just a level of experience, you have to be in situations and I’ve messed up many times. I took the extra base; I buried your opponent.”
“Guy hits a homerun for me, showboat, cool. You know what? I’ll see you again. I’ll beat you. I’ll ride a showboat.”
Cincinnati Reds Reliever Amir Garrett
While in previous generations the players themselves regulated violations of their Code, often with pitchers thrown at batters, many young stars on the hill consider this type of retaliation to be out of date.
Cincinnati Reds reliever Amir Garrett believes pitchers who throw clubs are hypersensitive. Garrett, who played for St. John’s college basketball before switching paths to pursue a career in baseball, views the NBA as a model for how baseball can develop its etiquette.
“You see someone getting immersed and looking at their face, or you see how Russell Westbrook plays and how they mess with the other team, that’s a lot of players in the NBA. They aren’t upset because they ‘ I say, “Well, I have to get you back,” says Garrett. “Guy hits a home run for me, show boat, cool. You know what? I will see you again. I will beat you. I will go show boating. “
MLB The (fashion) show
Bryce Harper # Opening day Tunnel 🔥
– ESPN (@espn) April 2, 2021
“I do not like it your studs. Take them off. “
Garrett sat at his locker, confused by a comment from a veteran gamer.
“You are too noticeable,” continued the veteran. “We don’t do that here.”
When the Reds’ south paw was a newcomer in 2017, MLB followed a policy requiring cleats on the pitch to match 51% of the team’s base color, with no alteration or mapping. Garrett didn’t feel like he had leeway to express his fashion sense on the baseball field until he established himself as a consistent major leaguer.
Perez recalls a much stricter, unspoken dress code during his playing time. When Perez invented the Angels in 1993, he liked to wear his hat backwards in the field, a habit he and Ken Griffey Jr. developed as the sons of great leagues in the Reds clubhouse.
“I remember Rene Gonzalez, # 88, I just remember he came up to me, a seasoned infielder, and said, ‘Hey, turn that hat on. Let’s go. These are the big leagues. This is not the small leagues. And you’re not junior, “said Perez. “The Seattle Mariners allowed Ken Griffey Jr. to be himself. When I got into the Angels system, it was more of a tight spot where the players controlled themselves.”
Due to the success of Players Weekend, an annual event first held in 2017, the league lifted restrictions on cleat colors and allowed shoes with illustrations and messages that promote social justice. Now players are showing their personal style through the general trends of necklaces, high socks and those brightly colored studs. And MLB’s partnership with Nike brings some of baseball’s oldest uniforms up to date.
“We have Marcus Stroman out there, booty. Tim Anderson, booty,” said Garrett. “Fernando Tatis, prey. Juan Soto, prey. Javier Baez, prey.”
Anderson recently wore a necklace with his personal logo on it, while his White Sox teammates like Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada regularly wear eye-catching jewelry in the field. Bryce Harper, Philadelphia Phillies outfielder, frequently includes the Phillie Phanatic in his fashion accessories and has used painted bats during the Home Run Derby to demonstrate the potential of using the wood of the game as a canvas for self-expression. Shortstop Francisco Lindor, who wore a classic Mets “Coming to America” jacket until spring training, recently launched his own line of shoes, New Balance.
“Of course I don’t want to bring in the race, but I mean, we’re not blind to it,” says Garrett, who is black. “You see it, people of color, we have a different boast about us. Latin Americans have a different boast about us. We enjoy the game, we like to wear big chains, we like to look good, we like to be flashy, It is just what it is. You see it, and what is understood doesn’t need to be explained. It’s the difference in culture and no one should be punished for it. “
Social media doesn’t scare MLB that much
LESS THAN A. Ten years ago, social media training for baseball players was a list of things not to be done. For a while, many baseball players viewed posting news on social media as a total non-starter – a form of self-promotion that was inconsistent with clubhouse values. Many players feared that posting the wrong guy would get them or their team in the hot water.
“They brought in PR people to give us a little PowerPoint presentation and say, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do this. This is going to get you in trouble,'” Giolito said. “We were promoting what it said, ‘Wow, look at that basketball player, they tweeted that. Then they had to apologize for it later and this and that.’ It’ll put you off a bit. “
The Astros theft scandal earlier last year marked a major turning point in the game’s relationship with social media. The players took to Twitter and other platforms to condemn their opponents’ behavior. Later, the controversial negotiations between the league and the players’ association about how and when the sport should resume during the coronavirus pandemic resulted in more and more players sharing their thoughts publicly.
“You understand that bit of hesitation and where that fear comes from,” said cardinal starter Jack Flaherty, who tweeted about his arbitration hearing with his team last off-season. “Originally, the only things posted about you on social media were bad things, people you caught doing something, or having a camera around when it wasn’t good.”
Now there are cameras all over the stadium. In 2019, Major League Baseball staffed photographers every match day to document pre-game celebrations, document moments for social media, and promote the sport to casual fans. For years the entry slowly established itself as part of the sports culture. Leagues like the NBA and NFL are devoted to fashion, allowing stars to show their sense of style. This social media fashion culture is now spreading in baseball as well.
“I’m all for it. Cameras before the game capture our outfits and so on, our style,” said Bader. “Baseball is tough. The camera is always focused on the catcher and the starting pitch. Fans don’t really get enough of our personalities.”
The shift in gamer attitudes towards social media began when stars and agents realized that a gamer’s influence on the internet was of great value in finding advertising opportunities. And when the social media culture around the sport loosened, it also became clear which topics the players could express their opinions on. Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward said for years he felt pressure to remain silent on many topics until the social justice movement rose after the assassination of George Floyd. For most of his major league career, Heyward has weighed the pros and cons of talking about his experience as a black American.
“When it comes to being African American and playing baseball,” Heyward said, “you just always felt,” There aren’t a lot of people around me who look like me. I would like to not miss this opportunity for the next guy. ‘”
Heyward participated in the LeBron James launched “More Than a Vote” campaign, in which athletes helped register voters ahead of the 2020 presidential election. Heyward believes the sport’s cultural litigation over norms, celebrations, emotions and style has driven fans, including potential young black men who could make careers in the sport.
“A lot of people will tell you when they talk about black baseball players that it feels like we’re not Hank Aaron and if we’re not Ken Griffey Jr. we have no chance of becoming a starting player on certain teams,” said Heyward. “There aren’t as many black bankers as there are white bankers or maybe Spanish bankers. That’s not a punch. It’s just facts. Just like you don’t see a lot of black head coaches or managers in baseball or other sports.”
Heyward says America’s diversity is gradually being mirrored in the country’s culture of pastime.
“Much of it has grown at a similar pace as the country when it comes to making people comfortable with certain things,” says Heyward. “For me, it’s just great to see people gradually come together with this, put differences aside and say, ‘Most importantly, we want to win. Second, we want to enjoy our jobs every day.’ I think there goes that out. “
“They brought in PR people to give us a little powerpoint presentation and say, ‘Don’t do this, don’t do this. This is going to get you in trouble.’ Kind of an advertisement for saying, “Wow, look at that basketball player, they tweeted this. Then later they had to apologize for it and this and that. “It’ll put you off a bit.”
Chicago White Sox pitcher Lucas Giolito
Players can now use their platforms as key leaggers to express their true selves more freely and meet younger fans where they already are.
“You’re inviting more cultures, you’re inviting more kids to get involved at a younger age and have fun playing this game and growing with the rest of the sports world,” Heyward said. “People see the highlights, people see things on YouTube and on social media, on the Instagram, the TikToks and so on. It’s fun. That’s loot, that’s a mood.”
And as more and more players seek to reevaluate the culture of the sport, they are ready to give each other a full hug on the baseball field.
“I just want to tell anyone if they have a problem with my not following unwritten rules. I’m always 60 feet, six inches away,” Garrett said. “So if you want to come and talk to me, yell at me.”
A whole new ball game
Players and managers have changed their attitudes towards bat flips in recent years, and Fernando Tatis Jr. is a face of MLB’s subsequent marketing push.
NOT TWO Months after Tatis broke the unwritten rules when the Padres took on the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of their wildcard series, the San Diego shortstop bat knocked over a homer with two runs in the seventh inning, one exclamation point on one Comeback win.
When asked why he flipped the bat, Tatis kept his explanation simple.
“Since I was a kid,” said Tatis, “we’ve played for it.”
This time Tingler quickly praised Tatis’ emotional outburst.
“It’s strange that, to be honest, it’s still a conversation,” said Tingler. “Nobody shows anyone. It’s energy, it’s raw, it’s real. They play the game and they cheer on their teammates.”
The comments marked a huge departure from the gameplay of bat flipping and partying from a not-too-long time ago. Padre’s first baseman, Mitch Moreland, was among those who were angry at the time of the Bautista bat flip while he was a member of the Rangers. Moreland is now a Tatis teammate and feels different.
“It’s just a different game. It’s a new time. I don’t know if I’ll ever do one of those,” Moreland said in October. “It’s just different. It’s a different kind of entertainment. It seems like it’s happening more and more across the league.
“It’s the new baseball.”
To see more of Joon Lee’s interviews with past and present great players as the game is changing, Check out his full video on YouTube.