Anyone who tunes into a televised baseball game immediately notices the players constant spitting.  Why?  Basketball players don’t spit.  Soccer players don’t spit.  Football players don’t spit.  Spitting is not a normal part of physical activity.

I have a theory, and you may even find it helpful in your life.

Years ago, I was talking with an elderly man about getting sleepy while driving long distances.  He said I should chew gum to stay alert.  It worked, and I have used that technique ever since.  The constant motion of the jaw muscles helps to maintain the whole-body muscle tone, and that keeps the mind alert.

Back to the baseball players.  The ball girls don’t spit, umpires don’t spit, so it has nothing to do with allergies to the grass or to the polypropylene AstroTurf.  Only the players and managers work their mouths.  If they are not spitting spit, they are spitting pumpkin seed shells.  In the old days, it would be tobacco juice.   The Phillies previous manager, Charlie Manuel, did not spit, but he worked his bubblegum like it was an Olympic event.  Obviously, the players and managers find it helpful to work their mouths in some manner throughout the game.

My theory is that all of this mouth action is to keep themselves alert, especially while sitting in the dugout where most of the spitting is done.  Spending half their time there, day after day, must get pretty boring, even for the managers, but you never see anyone dozing off.  They just spit a lot.

I assume the spitting stops when the players get home.  They don’t spit during interviews or at personal appearances (Except for Raul Ibañez, the Phillies outfielder of a few years ago, who could barely finish  a sentence without spitting.  They only interviewed him on the field and standing well up-wind.)

Talking would serve the purpose, but male ball players don’t do much of that.  Women softball players, on the other hand, talk constantly and apparently don’t feel any need to spit.

Catchers don’t spit while catching for obvious reasons, but they spit like any other player back in the dugout.  Most pitchers don’t spit at all or only while negotiating the catcher’s signals.  Dozing off while leaning forward and staring at the catcher would be embarrassing. The fielders are the big spitters.  They have to stay alert throughout long stretches of mind-numbing boredom and be ready to react in a split-second.

I rest my case.



About Roger Walck

My reasons for writing this blog are spelled out in the posting of 10/1/2012, Montaigne's Essays. They are probably not what you think.
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