How José Bautista’s bat flip saved baseball

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October 14, 2015

It was with this backdrop that José Bautista stepped to the plate in the 7th inning of a winner-take-all game on October 14, 2015. Everyone reading this knows what happened next – a monumental home run, and the greatest bat flip in MLB history.

Immediately, the bat flip became the most prominent topic in North America, not just in the sports world, but across media and culture more broadly.

Time called it “a work of raging joy,” while Vice proclaimed it “an epic spectacle that baseball fans will remember forever,” and The Washington Post asserted it was “the one to which all future bat flips will bow.”

More interesting, and more important, was the almost universal acceptance the bat flip received. USA Today said it was a sign that “Major League Baseball itself is turning the corner,” arguing “it’s high time we embraced the bat flip,” while The New York Times opined that the bat flip discussion was “staking out new turf in what was considered acceptable.” Even the traditionally stodgy Boston Globe ran a headline announcing, “Bautista’s bat flip gets stamp of approval.”

When Cole Hamels, who had started the game for Texas, came out afterwards and embarrassingly declared, “It’s hard to be politically correct,” or when, months later, former MLB player Goose Gossage called Bautista “a [expletive] disgrace to the game,” they appeared not as defenders of tradition, but as out-of-touch, at odds with the conclusions the rest of the continent had reached.

The stamp was put on the discussion by Bautista himself in his seminal Players’ Tribune article, where he conclusively wrote,

“Baseball is a metaphor for America. It’s a giant melting pot made up of people from all over the world and all walks of life. How can you expect everybody to be exactly the same? Act exactly the same? More importantly, why would you want them to?

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.”