FLYING BATS AND OTHER HAZARDS
Baseball has a rich history of players setting their bats aflight, but Jose Bautista has carved out his own place in baseball annals
Bats have long been a kind of plaything for uniformed, cleated men whose emotions have at times boiled over and gotten the better of them.? Rather than do what is customary and drop the bat close to home plate before making their way down the first-base line, these emotionally incontinent men will toss, fling, or thrust aside their bats more often out of a sense of frustration ? possibly a dusting of tantrumitis ? than joy.? I have witnessed some version of this many times over the years and in varying forms and degrees, usually resembling the fish toss at Pike Place Market, except the flying salmon in this case would be a baseball bat.? But seeing a batter actually throw his bat is indeed a rare sight.
This is why Bautista?s ?flip? is a convention bender and in many ways a misnomer of sorts.? What he did without question is throw his lumber even if the hurling motion was an underhanded one that started from below the waist.? The bat sailed up and up into the air and took longer to come down than some pop ups.? At least it felt that way.? That is not something baseball fans see very often, to say the least.? This to me, in Bautista?s defense, was hardly a display of arrogance or hubris but merely a cathartic reaction brought about by the tension everyone was feeling and especially the pressure the players were under at that moment.? Bautista?s three-run homer uncapped that pressure better than a relief valve in a pressure cooker ever could.
For the uninitiated, let?s go back and provide some context for this moment by giving a quick recap of the events leading up to Bautista?s bat launch. ?Game 5 of the ALDS, being a decisive game, very much had that white-knuckle ride feel to it as the game stayed close the whole time until things really hit a fevered pitch in the seventh inning when a flukey play led to the go-ahead run scoring for the Rangers. ?There was a review, an overturned call, a challenge, an official protest was issued by the Blue Jays and, having shot hundreds of baseball games in this stadium, I can honestly tell you that the reaction was like nothing else I had ever experienced. ?It felt like a mini insurrection was brewing in the stands and my mind started racing to what might happen outdoors after the game, and all across the city, if the score were to hold up and the Blue Jays were to be eliminated in this manner.? It would not have been pretty.? Vancouver 2011 anyone ?? Zoiks.
So when Bautista put the Jays ahead with his clutch homer(game tied, two outs), the feeling of catharsis was simply indescribable. ?I have since heard that Bautista himself acknowledged not knowing why he threw ? not flipped ? his bat the way he did and I believe him because, under those circumstances, to imagine a player simply trotting out of the batter?s box slowly towards first base would seem quasi comatose and not entirely human. ?The moment needed something more and Bautista rose to the occasion by delivering a proportionate response. ?We are after all human beings, not automata, and expressing ourselves with gusto is occasionally justified.? Had he reacted the same way after hitting an inconsequential home run during the third inning of a game played in May, I?m pretty sure Bautista would have very few backers in his corner.? But the moment was ripe for some kind of display of emotion.? I?m convinced that the charge in that building at the time of Jose?s blast could have brought the title character from “Weekend at Bernie?s” back to life.
As I?ve said before, to see players nonchalantly discarding their bats by lightly tossing them to the side as they break out of the box is hardly uncommon, but to throw a bat is a different matter altogether.? I remember seeing a fired-up Roger Clemens throw a broken bat right back at its owner, Mike Piazza, during a World Series game, but that counts for only a partial bat toss ? literally ? since the bat had been sawed off, and it?s not entirely accurate to draw parallels between Bautista and Clemens because Clemens wasn?t a batter. ?So forget that one.? The truth is that there really isn?t a precedent for Bautista?s ?flip? and that may just sit well with Blue Jay fans since there hasn?t been a lot of baseball history made in the city of Toronto in a very long time.
Now, for a gallery of other recent bat flips, by Bautista and other players, let?s enjoy what follows, shall we :