If you missed it, ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball ended in historic fashion this week. Playing in Chicago, the Cubs were down 3-0 heading into the bottom of the ninth against the Washington Nationals. After the Cubs loaded the bases with two outs, rookie David Bote came in to pinch hit. With a 2-2 count, Bote took a low pitch and golfed it out straight to center 442 feet for a walk-off grand slam. He hit it so perfectly, Nationals catcher Matt Weiters grimaced in frustration before Bote had even left the box.
After the game, Bote told reporters he had never hit a walk-off before. Never in his life. Not in high school, college, ever in his seven years in the minors.
And Bote’s story is a great one. He’s a 25-year-old rookie who’s been in the Cubs farm system since 2012 after being drafted in the 18th round out of a junior college. He’s gone back and forth between the majors and AAA half a dozen times this season, and is only with the big league club right now because star third baseman Kris Bryant is on his second DL stint. If there was ever a fun guy to root for, someone you want to see doing something as awesome as hitting a walk-off grand slam, it’s someone like Bote.
So what was Bote’s reaction after seeing his hit go over the wall? He flipped his bat. Of course he flipped his bat. He stood there and watched the ball soar and flipped his bat like it was on fire. Then he got to home plate and was mobbed by teammates who ripped his shirt off like he was Clark Kent and his teammates were a telephone booth. The whole scene was incredible and was a moment baseball fans live for.
Which is why seeing this tweet 14 hours later was so frustrating.
“I didn’t even realize I did it until I saw it on the replay … I meant no disrespect by any means. It was the heat of the moment,” Bote was quoted saying to Chicago’s 670 The Score.
Someone actually made Bote believe he had to apologize for flipping his bat. Of course it was the heat of the moment, it was a walk-off grand slam.
I’ve scoured through Twitter trying to find someone who was actually angry about the flip and have only found one, which I think is from a parody account. So why apologize? Why are our athletes today so accustomed to feeling like anything they do is going to bring on the angry pitchfork wielding Twitter mob?
When I was in high school, my friend got the bright idea of hanging a banner with the words “Seniors 08!” from the roof of the school. And, me being the only person with a car big enough to fit the ladder, I tagged along.
Since I don’t know the statutes of limitations on this stuff, I’m going to say that I didn’t actually get on the roof. It doesn’t matter. The point is, when I got home I was very worried because I assumed if my parents found out about it, they would be really angry.
But, I was also super lame and could never lie to my parents, so I just started rambling off apologies and grounded myself for a week.
And then to my surprise my mom actually thought it was cool and was sort of proud? She was mostly like “You had fun? You didn’t get arrested? Nice!”
Anyways, Bote’s apology feels a lot like that. He thought he did something really bad and people would be angry, but actually it was super cool and great and we’re finally to the point where the majority of people drown out the others who think fun things like bat flips and trespassing aren’t fun.
(Trespassing is not fun. Don’t do it.)
So let’s stop letting our athletes think they’re in trouble for showing emotion. No one can say “Bote needs to act like he’s been there before” because literally no one else has. Hitting an “ultimate grand slam” (a walk-off while down three runs) has only happened 29 times in MLB history, and it’s the first since 1936 to happen when a team was down 3-0.
Also, Bote had never hit a walk-off before. How many kids stand in their backyards with a wiffle ball bat and announce “bases loaded, bottom of the ninth, two outs” before mashing one over the neighbor’s fence?
It was historic, it was awesome baseball, and it was super fun. So let’s stop with the apologies.