Unwritten rules are a funny thing in baseball. They are completely off of hearsay from older guys or coaches telling younger guys things they need to know to respect the game, respect their opponent, and protect their own teammates. Just yesterday while playing with the AA team as spring training winds down, I learned a new one that I had never heard before.
One of the veteran guys approaches me and tells me that walking in front of the catcher and the umpire to get to the batter’s box can be a display of disrespect. Allegedly, it can be viewed by the battery (the pitcher and the catcher) as disrespect, or even sometimes by the home plate umpire as well. I didn’t take it too seriously right when I received the information. I just nodded my head with body language saying “yeah, sure, whatever” while thinking about how soft umpires and pitchers can be. But then I thought back to my at bats thus far that day. In my first at bat, I got a heater that shaved off some of my blonde chin hairs and sent me back like a limbo participant en route to a walk.
Playing limbo with fastballs happens more often than you’d think.
Then I had a bad at bat my second time around and popped out weakly to the first baseman. I think to myself “maybe I’m not just pissing off the pitcher by doing that, I’m pissing off the baseball Gods too”, and my third at bat I go around the catcher and the umpire with the utmost respect. Yup, you guessed it, I hit a first pitch rope up the middle for a base hit.
If I didn’t want to keep your best attention I would talk about every single unwritten rule that there is in baseball, but I won’t do that to you, rather I’ll keep it brief and talk about the infamous “snowball fight” last summer in Fort Myers against the Gulf Coast League Twins and how that started.
In hindsight, the game of dodge ball with hard white rocks could have begun by the unwritten rule I was talking about before, about going around the umpire and catcher on my way to the box, who knows. I would argue it’s because those 17 year old Latin guys who throw 100 couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn from 10 feet away. Regardless, my teammate J.C. Escarra and I, in our first eight games that season, were hit probably 20 times combined by GCL Twins pitchers, and our manager and pitching coach didn’t think it was by accident. They thought J.C. and I were getting plunked on purpose, so in our 4thmeeting of the season he tells one of our lefties to drill the first batter of the next inning, who sure enough was the first overall pick Royce Lewis (whether our manager knew this or not is still debated in our clubhouse in spring training). As you can imagine, that specific incident made the Twins coaching staff very upset.
It was either the 9th or 10th game against the Twins at their place in Fort Myers when the “snowball fight” began. If you were in the starting line-up that day, you got plunked. Guys were wearing pitches back and forth like sweaters on both sides, but in areas you’re supposed to get hit, the thigh, the ribs, and the rump etc., areas that won’t do too much damage. In the 6th inning or so, we’re in the field, I’m on third base, and one of the Latin pitchers for us comes up and in twice on their four hitter (worth mentioning that hitters name was Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez, I kid you not, great dude) and the second pitch got him in the shoulder. He chirped a little bit and walks down to first, then all hell breaks loose with the next batter. Our guy throws it right over this shorter, feisty Latin guys head, not missing by much. Major unwritten rule: DO NOT throw intentionally at a guy’s head, no matter what. It was bad enough he came up on Benny in the last at bat near his shoulder. The hitter walks out with some pace towards the mound ready to rumble. I, not thinking just sort of reacting to the situation in front of me, get in between the two Latin guys and the benches clear, charging out towards the mound like the ‘Running of the Bulls’. No punches were thrown and there wasn’t really too much shoving going on, just a lot of Spanish cussing going on around the mound, with this little pale dude from Sharon, Connecticut acting like he’s about to break up a fight between these two furious Dominicans if it started (oh wait that’s me). The Ft Myers GCL snowball fight will forever live in infamy.
The unwritten rules of baseball have started many snowball fights across the baseball world. They’ve sent little birds twirling around Jose Bautista’s head after a dirty slide into second got him laid out by Rougned Odor, they’ve made pitchers the loneliest guys in a dugout when they’re in the midst of a no-hitter, the rules and the stories are endless. It really emphasizes how weird the creatures known as ballplayers can be.