Commissioner for a Day

Jun 23 2017
Jun 23 2017

I love the game of baseball with all my heart.

It’s not just that I like baseball a lot. Or that I enjoy the sport. I love this game.

And I want to see it get even more popular in the future. So for this article, I thought about some ways to make that happen.

Now, I’m not gonna lie: At first when I sat down to think about what I’d do if I was in charge of the MLB, of course the first thing that came to my mind was that I would get rid of the shift. I mean, come on, right? Being able to put all your infielders over there on the first base side of the infield cost me a ton of hits over the years, so you know I gave that idea some thought. But then I figured, You know what, I’m not playing anymore … and the shift isn’t gonna take any more hits from me now. Plus, it’s not like they’re gonna give those hits back to me.

So I moved on.

And I realized that my main concerns right now aren’t really about the rules, or different guidelines that could be changed. It’s more about just making sure that we’re doing all we can to keep the game exciting and fun for our fans.

If I was in the commissioner’s chair, that would be my first order of business. Every day I’d be asking myself:

How can we make baseball even more fun?

For me, it all comes down to the fact that baseball is a game of emotion. And I think that anybody who says we should tone down that emotion, or that players should hold back their emotions on the field, is making a big, big mistake, man.

Emotions are part of being human.

And baseball players are human beings, too.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

We get happy, and excited, and mad, and frustrated, just like everyone else. And the game of baseball is not an easy one to play at a high level. So of course if you get a big hit, or make a great play in the field, you are sometimes going to get very emotional.

If you look at any other sport — football, soccer, basketball, hockey — the players show a ton of emotion when they do something exciting. If LeBron dunks over some guy and waves his arms to the crowd, we don’t judge that. We love it. He’s happy … and it makes us happy watching him be so happy.

But somehow baseball is supposed to be different. I don’t understand that. It’s like some people don’t want baseball players to be happy or something. Where is the fun in that?

When I hear commentators talking all critical about players who show emotion on the baseball field, it really bothers me. Because if you’ve never played the game you’re not going to understand what those emotions are all about. You may think it’s just showboating. But that’s almost never the case.

Most of the time, it’s not about trying to embarrass the other guy or show somebody up. You just get excited about what you’ve done. You get happy because you did something that’s not easy to do — whether it’s hitting a 100-mph pitch for a home run, or striking out a big-time major league hitter. You want to experience the joy that comes along with it, and carry that momentum for a little bit.

For me, fist pumps and bat flips are the little kid in you coming out. And we always say that baseball is a kid’s game. It’s supposed to be fun to play, and we shouldn’t forget that. Part of being human — for everyone, not just for baseball players — is that you get excited if you do something good. It doesn’t matter if you work in the front office, or at a bank, or if you sell insurance. If you do something really great, it feels good to celebrate. When you know you’ve accomplished something that was not easy, you’re going to show emotion.

I believe most fans get that, and understand it, and enjoy when players get excited. They don’t want to see robots out there on the field. They want to see people who care and who jump up and down sometimes.

So that’s my biggest thing: Let the players have fun!

As long as you do that, the game will be in a good place to grow. Then you just need to spread the word and show new people the joy and excitement that exists in our sport.

That’s the other part of the equation for me. As a league, we need to be doing as much as we can to showcase our stars — especially these young kids who are so talented. When you have guys at 21 or 22 swinging the bat like they’ve been in the big leagues for 10 years, that’s impressive. And when you have people throwing 100 mph with three or four different pitches. That is fun to watch, bro.

Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

I want these guys to be known not only nationwide, but worldwide.

I think we should be doing more national commercials — and even commercials in other countries — so that people can get to know these players and get excited about them. We need to do more outreach if we want our sport to grow. We can’t just sit back and do what we’ve always done, or only do just enough to make sure we can keep the fans who love baseball already.

We need to reach out and grab new fans.

If we focus on that goal, and really put some energy behind it, you could have millions and millions of people who have never even heard of baseball suddenly becoming fans — maybe it’s a dentist in Germany or a soccer player in Argentina. The good news is that, right now, we have the players who can make that kind of impact. The talent that these young guys have is unreal, man. I’m telling you. These kids can rake! So we have the guys who can get fans excited and who can motivate people to come out to the ballpark.

The thing is: I want Bryce Harper to be known not only nationwide, but worldwide.

I want Rizzo, and Correa, and Bryant, and Betts, and Altuve, and Lindor, and Bogaerts and my boy from Anaheim … to be worldwide superstars.

I want Trout to be well known in China, bro.

Because he’s gonna go down as one of the greatest to ever play this game. He deserves that sort of recognition.

So doing things like that, spreading the word about our superstars, would probably be my main goal as commissioner.

Well, that and bat flips.

We gotta let guys flip their bats every once in awhile, you know?