Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista sets the scene. “Let me take you inside my head for a second. It’s Game 5 of the ALDS against Texas. Do or die. Tie game, seventh inning. Two men on. Two outs.”
In an incredible piece published today in The Player’s Tribune, Bautista takes readers inside his transcendent moment from game five. In the most electrifying Blue Jays moment from the past two decades, Bautista was being himself. A representative of a baseball culture that is repeatedly, and lazily, called into question for showmanship and disrespecting the game.
“Imagine the feeling of watching it land in the seats. How would you feel? What would you do? There was no script. I didn’t plan it. It just happened. I flipped my bat.”
Bautista dives into the cultural differences between the American game and the way it’s typically played in the Dominican Republic, on multiple occasions referring to America as the “melting pot” where this different brand of baseball should be embraced into the bigger picture.
“The reality is that these guys came up playing baseball in an entirely different atmosphere. Come down to the Dominican Republic and experience it yourself. We’re loud. We’re emotional. We’re always singing and dancing. We love to laugh and have a good time. It’s ingrained in our DNA. And it doesn’t change when we’re playing baseball. To us, baseball isn’t a country club game.”
This is an incredibly cerebral man, and Bautista has an impressive understanding of the game from both cultural and business standpoints. He references the cultural phenomenon that the bat flip grew in to, with videos on social media of people flipping their spoons after eating a bowl of cereal and the Mayor of Toronto flipping a bat into a fountain after giving a speech. It became a “thing”.
That’s what baseball needs. Despite soaring profits and mammoth TV contracts, there remains an underlying fear that baseball will not appeal as strongly to a younger audience. The pace-of-play rules are related to that, an effort to keep the action flowing for a generation with a shortened attention span. What will grab fans is not shortening three hours into two hours and 57 minutes, though, it’s raw excitement and social media share-worthy moments.
Bautista’s bat flip hit Twitter like a tidal wave, with its Vine video looping millions and millions of times. This reaches past lines of baseball fandom or team affiliation, and in the simplest terms, makes baseball “cool”. This passion for the game also adds some much-needed diversity, because as a member of the younger demographic, it’s awfully difficult to find yourself relating to a stoic, straight faced big-leaguer that plays the game “the right way”. We’ve all heard someone gripe about baseball being a terribly boring sport to watch, and in many ways, that can be why.
“But for whatever reason, there’s a small section of old-school, my-way-or-the-highway type of people who never want the game to evolve. They’re the dinosaurs who believe that everybody should play the same and act the same. They usually claim that it is out of “respect. In my opinion, true respect is about embracing the differences in people’s cultures. That’s what the melting pot of America is all about.”
Bautista is what baseball needs, and thankfully, mass opinion is becoming more open to players that are in any way different. Whether that difference be culturally, racially, emotionally or intellectually, it’s a slow process, but it’s moving.