Former Toronto Blue Jays star Jose Bautista has urged everyone connected to Major League Baseball to embrace the new levels of emotion in the sport.
Professional baseball has traditionally frowned on excessive celebrations, with many people claiming it shows too much disrespect to opponents.
However, there is a new school of thought that believes MLB stars have a duty to engage with fans, and emotional behaviour is part and parcel of the game.
Bautista understands more than most how celebrations have power to divide opinion having produced one of the most iconic moments in baseball seven years ago.
He was playing in a crucial Game 5 of the American League Division Series and the Jays were level at 2-2 with the Texas Rangers heading into the seventh inning.
After both teams added another score to their tally, Bautista arrived at the plate with two Blue Jays on first and third base.
He hit a three-run home run to secure victory for the Blue Jays and celebrated with a ‘bat flip’, sparking anger amongst the Rangers and attracting criticism from pundits.
While many people still believe bat flipping is disrespectful, it has become more prevalent in the game since Bautista’s stunning celebration.
The 41-year-old says he understands why such actions cause controversy, but insists they have a positive impact on the sport.
He told Betway that the celebrations are justified because guys with that type of attitude and mentality grew up with the game being like that.
Bautista believes that as the game evolves and physical ability changes, players will play the game differently making it okay for other things to change.
He stressed the need for MLB to remember that it is a product and the fans are a consumer, and the sport wants them to enjoy the experience as much as they can.
Although baseball traditionalists remain resistant to evolution in baseball, exuberant celebrations have gradually become part-and-parcel of the landscape in MLB.
For example, the Atlanta Braves have embraced a “sword slice” celebration, which has thankfully replaced the tomahawk chop they previously had.
The move was introduced in July 2021 when took two pink plastic swords and ran in celebration around the field after pitcher Max Fried scored a walk-off RBI single.
The Los Angeles Angels celebrate big moments by awarding a cowboy hat to a player as a nod to the 2002 World Series where in Game 7, outfielder Tim Salmon threw one in the sky to honour Gene Autry, their former team owner.
Boston Red Sox’s laundry cart ride and the Detroit Tigers’ Macho Man belt and glasses props are other celebrations that spark amusement for viewers of MLB streams.
Despite the naysayers arguing these types of antics are not in the spirit of baseball, Bautista believes they should relax and enjoy the experience.
He says that some of those moments that lead to the changes may not have the best immediate reaction at times, but they eventually lead to true evolution of the game.
Bautista believes that things would reach a point where both sides – the players and the fans – enjoy where things progress to.
He admits there are also moments where it may not be cool to bat flip, even in today’s game. These include if the score is too lopsided.
Bautista argues that celebrations must be in context and, if the moment warrants it, he does not think most people sees it as taboo anymore.