Dust ’em up
Recently, I was watching a Mets/Diamondbacks game out in Phoenix when the Mets pitcher, Marcus Stroman, and one of the Rattlers got to jawing at each other. Now the Diamondbacks are what I call an HCT (Historically Challenged Team), and they were playing in a home ballpark that seemed to have more New York fans than Phoenix fans. Those playing conditions plus a month long losing streak can make any snake eyed bat wielder a mite testy; so the players got in each other’s faces a bit.
Then the benches emptied and we had a “baseball brawl” on our hands: a scary, violent confrontation much to be dreaded and avoided? Well, maybe not so much.
“Baseball brawls” generally have a similar relationship to real riots that two groups of 130-pound dancers in the cast of “West Side Story” have to a real street fight. Threatening attitudes are proudly displayed, giant punches and kicks may even cleave the air somewhere in the same area code as the “enemy gang,” but someone actually getting hurt? Are you kidding?
And that was the way this brawl went as well. It didn’t even get to the all out viciousness of pushing and shoving. The two sides let each other know how tough they were, satisfied their honor, and sat down to continue the game as though it had never happened.
There was one move, however, that satisfied one of those “unwritten rules” that are more important than those in the rule book: The catcher will protect his pitcher at all times, in all places, and at all costs.
Tomas Nido, the catcher in question, gently pushed Stroman, one of the major “combatants,” aside and put his protected and protective self in the way of the enemy “bad guy.” Even though no punches were thrown or bodies otherwise imperiled, Nido had done the right thing: He had his pitcher’s front.
Lately there has been a lot written about the unwritten rules, some commentators bashing them, others celebrating them. I belong to the second group. The way we belong to a team is by understanding what binds that team together. Each team is a little bit different because each group of individuals is slightly different, but if we remember to respect and care for our teammates and cover their fronts as well as their backs, much of the ugliness we commonly see would go the way of yesterday’s baseball brawl: gone and forgotten except for the honor paid to the catcher’s “doing the right thing.”
Millerton resident Theodore Kneeland is a former teacher and coach — and athlete.