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Zuba: Let the celebration begin (Oct. 16)

Samantha Zuba | Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Party on, Yasiel Puig.

Carlos Beltran might take issue with Puig’s celebration on a triple Monday in Game 3 of the NLCS, but I definitely don’t. Baseball could use more guys who enjoy the game as much as Puig clearly does.

Puig cranked a ball past Beltran and celebrated as he stepped out of the batter’s box because he thought he had hit a home run. Puig flipped his bat high in the air and raised his arms. When Puig saw the ball bounce off the wall, he hustled into third, where he again celebrated, this time for a triple.

Beltran complained that Puig hasn’t yet learned the right way to act as a player.

Yes, he has. Puig plays the game right because he lets his energy speak for him as much as his talent.

Puig has been a sparkplug for the Dodgers this season. Puig had 44 hits in his first month as a player, second only to Joe DiMaggio’s 48 as a rookie in May 1936.

The Dodgers needed offense, and Puig delivered. Led by the surging Puig, the Dodgers moved from 16th in OPS before the All-Star break to 5th after the break and won the NL West.

But Puig does more than hit. He plays the game like an eager Little Leaguer, and that’s a good thing, even if it makes him a little unpredictable.

Puig is fun to watch not only because he’s good, but also because you never know when he might start dancing on third base. He made the Dodgers fun to watch too, while at the same time helping them become a contender. Puig doesn’t let anyone doubt his passion for the game because he makes sure everyone can see it, and his energy rallies fans. The crowd at Dodger Stadium on Monday sure cheered like they didn’t mind Puig’s celebration.

Some of baseball’s legendary playoff moments have come from spontaneous, exuberant outbursts. No one is scolding Carlton Fisk for bouncing around and waving his shot out of the park in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. It’s one of the best baseball clips of all time.

Kirk Gibson’s fist pump after his home run off Dennis Eckersley in the 1988 World Series is another baseball treasure, although Gibson waited to celebrate until he had rounded first base.

Baseball players shouldn’t celebrate every long fly ball before they step out of the box. But during the playoffs, it’s fun to see players get pumped up.

When Puig hit his almost-home run Monday, the Dodgers were down 0-2 in the series to the Cardinals, and going down 0-3 would have basically spelled “The End.” The Dodgers needed to win, and Puig played like he understood that. His excitement wasn’t disrespectful; it proved that he understood what was at stake.

Fisk and Gibson became legendary because they reacted to their successes with such genuine excitement. That’s everything parents want to see from their kids when they sign them up for Little League. That’s joy for the game.

Granted, Puig should scale back some of his wildness so he doesn’t become a negative clubhouse presence. Puig did not spend a lot of time in the minor leagues, so he missed a lot of lessons about how to work with teammates on a professional level.

Beltran, though, seems to think growing up means not getting excited and not showing fans that you’re having fun.

Puig has some maturing to do, but I hope he never grows up if it means he has to stop celebrating what he loves to do.

Let Puig play his way. It’s working.

Contact Samantha Zuba at szuba@nd.edu

The views expressed in this Sports Authority column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.