Amazing that it’s taken this long, but we finally have a winter league bat flip worthy of attention. It comes courtesy of Willians Astudillo, who hit three homers for the Twins last season (mostly in September, after rosters expanded), a number clearly insufficient for him to take such events as old hat.
Astudillo is Venezuelan, and hit the dong in question in the Venezuelan Winter League, where such displays are far more common than they are in, say, Minnesota. We’ve previously discussed in this space the idea that Latin American players, who grew up playing the sport in ways too vibrant for some of their U.S. counterparts to fully digest, tend to tone down their acts for the MLB. This was never more clear than during the World Baseball Classic in 2017, when players from Puerto Rico let loose their emotions, and during the WBC in 2013, when Dominican players did the same, drawing the ire of their counterparts on the U.S. squad.
Last April, Puerto Rico native Francisco Lindor, who played for his national team during the WBC, hit a regular-season home run against the Twins during a game held in Puerto Rico, and celebrated as he saw fit for his home country. It was only afterward that he stopped to consider the fact that, location aside, it was nonetheless a regulation Major League Baseball game, and norms might have shifted. Lindor went so far as to apologize for what was second nature to him, at least when playing in his home country.
All of which is to say that because home run pimping isn’t all that unusual in
Central South America, it takes an especially heroic effort to make people take notice.
Baseball fans, Willians Astudillo is such a hero.