Let’s break down one of the most memorable bat flips in baseball history:
1. Before the Flip
Chaos. The deciding game of a division series turning on a freak play. Bottles, cans and cups littering the turf. Russell Martin’s botched throw to the mound seems poised to go down as an epic blunder that will forever haunt him—like losing the World Cup on an own goal, or paying money to watch the Leafs play hockey.
Roughly one eon later—after arguments, debates, a formal review, an official protest and several pregnancies carried to term—Jose Bautista comes to the plate in the seventh. It’s a tie game, two men out, two men on. The one-one pitch from Sam Dyson is a 97-mph fastball, low and inside.
Within Rogers Centre, the sound that follows the swing represents the collective release of three hours of tension and 22 years of frustration. Even hours later, any Jays fan trying to put the elation of this moment into words wound up sounding like a drunk Munenori Kawasaki.
2. The Flip
That’s how it will probably be remembered—as “The Flip.” Or perhaps as the superhero that swooped in to prolong a season: Batflip! But it was really more of a bat fling.
Swing. Pause theatrically. Turn to the right. Fling it. The bat-launching gesture was abrupt and powerful, like King Kong swatting at a biplane.
Rather than travel end over end in the manner of a traditional flip, Bautista’s bat soared and sailed. It seemed to hang improbably in mid-air, lingering there as though the forces of gravity took stock of the circumstances and collectively decided amongst themselves: “Let’s give this one a minute.”
On Bautista’s face, an expression of calm, confidence and, yes, some cockiness. All in all, though, a pretty measured response to a career-defining moment. If it were me, I’d have kissed both biceps, posed for a selfie with the ump and stopped between second and third to sew a victory quilt.
3. After the Flip
Cue the predictable grousing: “Respect the game . . . Act like a professional . . . It shouldn’t be done.” Had Joe Carter hit his legendary, World Series–winning homer in the age of Twitter, reaction would have been swift: “Really, Joe? Jumping for joy?? Be a pro and circle the bases at a respectful mosey.”
These sour fogies would have a player hit the biggest home run of his life then gently place the bat upon the ground and pen a handwritten letter of apology for hurting the pitcher’s feelings. All triumph must be tempered. Players’ code! Unwritten rules! RESPECT THE GAME!
Screw that. Here’s to displays of in-the-moment exuberance. Here’s to celebrating a moment by actually celebrating. Here’s to understanding that you don’t always have to demonstrate grown-up reserve when playing a kids’ game—at least, not while the ball you just clobbered is still en route to the suburbs.
Bautista’s bat—that bat—should hang in a place of prominence along the Rogers Centre concourse, at the exact height and on the exact angle in which it was captured in the iconic photograph we all stared at 28 times the next day at work.
Behind it, let’s place an image of the fans as they were—standing as one, arms raised, mouths open. We can all line up to pose in Jose’s place and have our pictures taken. There is only one rule: Look like you’re really putting your arm into the bat fling, just like Jose did.
Unwritten rules are made to be broken. @scottfeschuk
This story originally appeared in the Nov. 2 issue of Sportsnet magazine