Play Ball Initiative Tainted by Fight and Fans
By Kaitlyn Bain
On the weekend of Major League Baseball’s inaugural Play Ball initiative, there was a down a dirty fist fight in Texas between the Texas Rangers and the Toronto Blue Jays. The Play Ball initiative was designed to introduce more youth to the wonderful sport of baseball with the intent of garnering interest in the sport. The fight sure got a lot of media attention; however, it’s doubtful that this was the type of attention that Major League Baseball wanted.
Enough has already been said about the two players in the middle of the frenzied fist fight. It’s time to approach the issue from another angle and explore how the fans of both teams reacted to the tension at the game.
Fans are an integral part of the sport of baseball. Without them, the players would be nothing more than men playing a boy’s sport in abandoned fields to the sound of crickets and cars going by. Since fans place a high value on the sport, people pay to watch these professionals play in person at the ballpark and at home through their MLB.TV or cable package.
Blue Jays’ fans are very loyal. No matter what ballpark their team travels to you’re sure to find Jays’ hats, and blue and white jerseys in the crowd. Jays fans travel extremely well and pack into opposing teams ballparks to watch their team play. However, it must have been extremely uncomfortable for them in Texas this past weekend.
Chants of, “USA! USA! USA!” could be heard loudly throughout Globe Life Park, echoed by a chorus of, “Jays Suck!”. As a Canadian (or Jays fan), surrounded by angry Texans shouting “USA, USA, USA” this would be highly uncomfortable.
These are not the usual cheers of, “Let’s go Texas!”, to which a Jays fan could respond with, “Let’s
go Blue Jays!” Friendly competition has flown out the window and it’s no longer about the team. All of a sudden Texas fans are cheering for their country. As the lone Canadian team in the Majors the Toronto Blue Jays are often met with the “USA! USA! USA!” cheers; however, when all of the teams based out of the United States visit the Rogers Centre you do not hear the Jays fans bellow out “Canada, Canada, Canada” or anything remotely similar.
When Mariano Rivera came to Canada for the last game he would ever play in the Rogers Centre the entire crowd, Yankee fan and Jays fan alike, stood up and cheered him in celebration of his accomplishments.
The Jays team is made up of a mixed bag of nationalities, in true Canadian fashion. There are three Mexican-born players, two Venezuelan-born players, two Dominican-born players, 27 players born in the good Ol’ USA and yes, it is true, there are two Canadians on the team. Loud “USA! USA! USA!” chants were echoing through the stadium as Dominican-born Jose Bautista and Venezuelan-born Roughned Odor were getting in their fight.
While playing the Rangers the Jays manager John Gibbons (who makes his home in San Antonio, Texas) and three Texas-born players, including Ryan Goins and relief pitcher Ryan Tepara were greeted by the chorus of “Jays Suck” and “USA! USA! USA!” They must be so proud of their countrymen as raised their voices in loud praise for them.
When a Texas pitcher is facing a tough batter like Jose Bautista and the fans boo Bautista they aren’t doing their pitcher any favours. If they were to cheer their team on with chants of their pitcher’s name, or , “Let’s go Texas”, that pumps a team up. A pitcher doesn’t need the fans to psych out the opposing batter because a player like Bautista doesn’t get psyched out, he just gets psyched up by the sound of the crowd. As the great Reggie Jackson once said, “They don’t boo nobodies”.
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In conclusion, what kind of an example did Texas fans set for the youth of today and the baseball players of tomorrow watching the Texas/Jays Series over the Play Ball Weekend? The youth learned that they don’t have to cheer their own team on, as long as they’re heckling the opposing side. The young ones in the stands learned that it doesn’t matter if your team wins, as long as the other team loses.
Interested young players learned that violence is the right way to settle old scores and instead of winning on the field, they should win with a right hook. Maybe most importantly, Jays fans learned that when in the United States at a ball game, when tensions run high, and the crowd starts yelling, “USA! USA! USA!” that’s the cue for them to make a speedy exit.