New baseball behaviors offer up a renewed interest

June 4, 2009

I had the rare opportunity these last weeks to be able to tune into a few baseball games, namely the Royals. It has given me the opportunity to observe a new set of behaviors and puzzle over them a bit.

I was recently watching the Royals play the Orioles on Ladies Night. I was so intrigued with watching snippets of behavior, I nearly lost the rhythm of the game; believe me when I say there is both pattern and rhythm to a baseball game.

The players have all kinds of little strange behaviors. It’s not so strange really when you remember that all behavior serves a purpose. A baseball player seems to have these little patterns or rituals — digging a shoe in the dirt, wiping the brow, adjusting his ball cap and other pieces of protective equipment and spitting. Such a bunch of spitters. Where does all that spittle come from? Probably from those big wads of whatever is bulging from the lip and jowl.

Years ago, when I had more leisure time, I used to watch a baseball game or two. Either the game has changed or the players have, or maybe both.

Take the shoes for example. My memory is of shoes with cleats or spikes for traction. One of the Royals players has a specially designed pair of shoes that look like ballet slippers. Apparently the shoe weighs 100 grams less than a regular baseball shoe. He seems to make good time in them.

Take physical shape for another. My memory of baseball players is that they were generally lean and lithe. Billy Butler, a Royals player, looks like the original Pillsbury Doughboy, and he’s not the only one. And stance. My memory is that a batter steps up to the plate, digs into the dirt, takes a practice swing or two, lowers his head and waits for that perfect pitch, which he then attempts to lob over the fence for a home run.

Watched the Royals play lately? What do you think of Mike Aviles’ batting stance? He roles the bat counter clockwise over his head and wags his hips around like he has a Hula-Hoop attached. He suddenly stops and whacks the ball with a clockwise roll of the bat. I don’t know how he does it.

However they do it, they’ve got me hooked.

Originally published at: