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Sports Authority

Ivey: Make baseball fun again

| Thursday, April 14, 2016

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper went up to the plate to bat on Monday night in a game against the Atlanta Braves. No big deal, right?

Well during the at-bat, TV cameras caught something unusual on Harper’s bat. An emoji.

Yes, that kind of emoji. Harper used a bat with a picture of a “100” emoji attached to the bottom of the bat knob. Harper also posted a picture on Instagram with the decal attached to two of his bats. This is because Harper is just one home run away from hitting career home run number 100 in his still young and promising career. But that might not be the only reason why Harper added the decal to his bat.

The MLB discourages players from putting decals on their bats and have even fined players in the past for doing just that. This is just one of a number of rules that are frowned upon by a number of MLB players, including Harper.

But it’s not just the written rules that are starting to discourage Harper. It’s the “unwritten” rules of the game of baseball, or how a player is supposed to act on a baseball diamond during a game, that Harper has had enough with. After the first game of the season, Harper wore a “Make Baseball Fun Again” hat, a knock off of Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat.

In an interview with ESPN The Magazine at the beginning of spring training last month, Harper expressed his dislike of the unwritten rules of baseball and said they’re hurting the game more than helping it.

“Baseball’s tired,” Harper said. “It’s a tired sport, because you can’t express yourself. You can’t do what people in other sports do. I’m not saying baseball is, you know, boring or anything like that, but it’s the excitement of the young guys who are coming into the game now who have flair.

“If a guy pumps his fist at me on the mound, I’m going to go, ‘Yeah, you got me. Good for you. Hopefully I get you next time. That’s what makes the game fun. You want kids to play the game, right?”

A lot of baseball people didn’t like these comments, including Hall-of-Fame pitcher Goose Gossage, who sounded off on Harper and the current state of baseball in an interview last month with ESPN Radio 1000 in Chicago.

“You were supposed to act like a professional and conduct yourself in every manner, in every way as a professional,” Gossage said. “You know, now it’s all about self-promoting and hitting home runs and bombs and showing up the pitcher and trotting around, doing your little act, your tired little act around the bases and at home plate and in the dugout and all that stuff. … It’s just the way that I was brought up. You know, it seems like money has really changed this game. And not for the best.”

Although I agree with what Gossage said about being professional, I disagree with him and other baseball purists about how the unwritten rules are good for the game. In fact, I believe they’re the exact opposite: They hurt more than they help the game.

Pitchers don’t like when batters show them up by flipping their bat after a big hit? Ok, then strike them out. Batters don’t like when pitchers show them up after a strike out? Then hit the ball into the bleachers. That’s just the nature of sports.

I hate it when a pitcher intentionally hits a batter because the batter did a bat flip or walked around the bases too long the previous at-bat. Those kinds of incidents make the game look stupid, not just to me, but to younger kids and potential future baseball players. Those actions discourages them from wanting baseball because they don’t want to play a game they think is stupid.

Look at the MVP’s of other sports: Cam Newton (NFL), Stephen Curry (NBA) and most likely Patrick Kane (NHL). What do they all have in common? Not only are they great players, they’re also great showmen. They make their sport look fun to play. That’s why their respective sports are slowly becoming more and more popular.

This is just the world we live in nowadays. Fans, especially kids, don’t want to just watch the game itself anymore, they want to be entertained while they’re watching it, and they want to have fun while they’re playing it. They want to mimic Newton’s touchdown dances or Kane’s goal celebrations.

Bryce Harper is the future face of baseball, and baseball needs an attitude change. I think it’s good he’s ruffling feathers with baseball purists and trying to bring the game he loves into the 21st century and to “Make Baseball Fun Again.”

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

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