The Portrayal of Baseball Players

All of my life, I played the great sport of baseball, known as America’s Pastime, which has become popular all over the world. It is a sport played in nearly every country, whether it is with an actual bat and a ball, or with a broom and makeshift ball out of supplies. The World Baseball Classic is a good example of that because countries from all over form a team of players that represent their country, and those teams all meet up for a tournament. Although it is such a popular sport, the media doesn’t always portray the players in a correct manner. Television, movies, YouTube clips, and journalists, are forever known for imitating stereotypes. When we see these videos and stories about baseball players, rarely do we see accurate reflections of them. Why is it that baseball player’s receive such bad reputations from the public’s perspective?

A common stereotype is that student athletes have a privileged lifestyle when it comes to academics. The media portrays these athletes as unintelligent. Fellow students believe athletes receive more extension dates on assignments, are allowed to skip classes, and receive other special treatment. In all reality, athletes have a more stressful and exhausting experience than other students. Although there are practices, conditioning, and homework, athletes are required to keep their grades up. The NCAA has requirements to maintain eligibility. The term ‘student-athlete’ has the word ‘student’ first for a reason. For students in Division I schools, at the end of their second academic year they must have completed 40 percent of their degree requirements, 60 percent of their coursework by the end of the third year, and 80 percent of the requirements by fourth year of their academic study. They must also maintain the minimum G.P.A. requirements that the University has in place for all students.3 Although this is a basketball movie instead of baseball, the film Coach Carter accurately depicts the expectations for student-athletes. In the movie, the students are not taking their academic work seriously and are receiving bad grades. The coach, played by Samuel L. Jackson, takes initiative to suspend the team from playing until the whole roster can meet the minimum grade requirements. For all the coaches I’ve played for, they took pride in making each of us focus on academics and representing the team in a positive way.

In the YouTube video ‘Smokeless Tobacco Mixed with Baseball,’ they start off the video with this line: “baseball and use of smokeless tobacco have seemingly gone hand-in-hand for decades.” The coach being interviewed in the beginning makes a great point, stating that people all over the country use the tobacco, but baseball is the sport in which it is very visible. Almost everyone I have spoken with about baseball has always assumed I use chewing tobacco simply for the fact that I play the game. However, the use of tobacco during practices and games is prohibited among college athletes.4 As stated in the NCAA compliance section, “The use of tobacco products by a student-athlete is prohibited during practice and competition. A student-athlete who uses tobacco products during a practice or competition shall be disqualified for the remainder of that practice or competition.”2 The reason all players are looked at as tobacco users is because the players of Major League Baseball are not prohibited from using smokeless tobacco during practices and games. Given the popularity of the MLB compared to college athletics, the actions of those players represent baseball players in college and high school. I don’t find it offensive when someone assumes I am a user of smokeless tobacco, but it can become frustrating when other athletes, and even friends, assume you partake in a certain action. I know the use of smokeless tobacco is high among players in college, they use it off the field, but that doesn’t mean we should stop advocating against it. I have a lot of family members that use smokeless tobacco and I’ve seen the damages it can do. Hopefully more athletes will begin speaking out against the use of tobacco because there are far too many little kids who are willing to do anything to be like their favorite athletes. However, I don’t believe Major League Baseball should prohibit the use of smokeless tobacco amongst its players. Players are doing far worse things to their bodies by using steroids and the main priority should be completely eliminating that particular problem. Ultimately, the media is to blame for children being exposed to these things because they continue to produce story after story on these subjects.

Anabolic steroids are a dangerous drug, yet often abused by many. While some may think it is worth the risk of getting bigger and stronger, steroids can damage your kidneys, liver, and heart. There are many other side effects as well.1 Baseball players are often associated with steroid use because some of the most popular players have been caught using them. In a 2011 interview with ESPN, New York Yankees third baseman, Alex Rodriguez, admitted to his previous use of the drug.5 Having a well-known representative of the sport admit to the use of steroids will make everyone else assume it’s a common practice by all players. A main problem with those that do own up to abusing the drug is that they make excuses about their choice to use. They blame it on their young age, immaturity, and pressure to succeed. If they would just stand up and speak out against the use of steroids, maybe the media wouldn’t continue to associate baseball with steroid use. I, personally, haven’t met anyone that has used the drug for baseball purposes. I believe most athletes don’t use it until they hit the professional level.

Now for my favorite part of the research, the superstitions of baseball players. This is a very common stereotype associated with baseball players, and I will even have to agree that this is a very accurate portrayal of the majority of us players. In the YouTube video ‘Superstitions on Friday the 13th,’ a segment from the television show MLB Tonight, they discuss the various superstitions players have. The very first example is not talking to a pitcher on the bench during a no-hitter. This is an unwritten rule that every single player knows. I honestly don’t know why we believe in this, but we like to make sure our pitcher maintains his focus and doesn’t feel as much pressure to keep the no-hit bid alive. What makes this even weirder is that after a hit is given up, the next time we are in the dugout we talk to them even though they are still pitching in the following innings. Another example in the video is to not talk about the superstitions. Yes, not talking about them happens to be a superstition. During games we consider all these strange superstitions to be ‘normal,’ so discussing them would make it seem as if all of these things we are doing are ‘weird.’ Jason Giambi was known for having to wear his golden thong. This idea makes me laugh, but at the same time I can relate to him because I had a similar superstition when I was 8 years old. One game I was wearing a pair of yellow boxers and I happened to get an in-the-park homerun that game. The rest of that season I had to wear those yellow boxers during every game or I would have the mindset that I wouldn’t perform well. Thankfully I got past my same underwear superstition, though.

The media portrays baseball players in several different lights. Some of these portrayals create a negative image for the sport while others are accurately giving examples of the lives of baseball players. In order to keep this game popular amongst parents so children can continue to grow up with baseball in their lives, we need the media to take its primary focus off of the negative behaviors of select athletes (they don’t represent all of us players) and begin showing the camaraderie associated with the sport and the life lessons you can pick up along the way.

Works Cited

“Anabolic Steroids.” NIDA for Teens. N.p., n.d. Web. 5 Mar. 2014.

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“NCAA Compliance Topics.” Penn Athletics. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

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“Remaining Eligible: Academics.” jcoram. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

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“Smokeless tobacco mixed with baseball.” YouTube. YouTube, 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 18

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“Steroids in Baseball.” YouTube. YouTube, 15 Feb. 2011. Web. 18 Feb. 2014.

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