Bat Flipping, Evolution of the Unwritten Rules

Hüsker Dön’t: Nebraska Coach Sets Tone For Plate Celebrations

Husker points

For those who can’t stand the acceptance of bat flipping and related celebrations into major league baseball’s mainstream, I give you Darin Erstad.

Erstad, a two-time All-Star over his 14-year big league career, has been head baseball coach at the University of Nebraska since 2011. He is decidedly old school.

So when one of his players, junior infielder Angelo Altavilla, did this against Indiana on Friday …

 

… Erstad was not happy about it. (As evidenced in the video, neither was Indiana catcher Ryan Fineman.)

Erstad greeted Altavilla in the dugout with no small amount of displeasure—“Don’t do that again,” were his exact words, according to the Lincoln Journal Star—and then pulled him from the game.

Altavilla had been slumping, as had Nebraska, so they had reason to celebrate. Such details did not matter to Erstad.

It’s one thing to accept that players set the tone for Major League Baseball’s unwritten rules. When a critical mass accepts bat flipping as the norm, well, that’s what it is. In college ball, however, there’s an emphasis on learning unlike anything found in the major leagues. NCAA coaches are shaping ballplayers, but, given that only a tiny percentage of the collegiate ranks go pro, they’re also shaping people. And if a guy like Erstad wants to pass along lessons about respect and decorum that his players can take with them into civilian life, more power to him.

Succeeding with grace is in increasingly short supply in this country. Here’s hoping for an infusion of the stuff from Lincoln.

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Learning the Code

Unwritten Rules 101: The Things One Learns in College

Baseball’s unwritten rules are frequently the domain of the major league. In the minors, players are working on skills more so than etiquette, and at lower levels than that most pitchers lack the type of control that can indicate intention behind a hit batter.

That doesn’t prevent issues from cropping up, however.

Last week, a Stony Brook University player stole a base in the eighth inning of a regional tournament game against Miami, while his team led 9-2.

How to respond to such an action? Stony Brook coach Matt Senk addressed it directly, at the beginning of his postgame press conference.

“I’d like to apologize to coach Jim Morris and his fine Miami team for the miscommunication that took place,” Senk said in a Newsday report. “I felt compelled to take action and pull [the offending] player. . . . We were not interested in stealing at that point. We were going to go station to station. We have a sign to not steal. [The runner] missed the sign.”

It was a heck of an opening statement after a convincing 10-2 win over a high-profile opponent. Senk is in his 22nd season as coach at Stony Brook, and is obviously big into teachable moments.

The Sea Dogs went on to win three of their next four games—by the book, it seems safe to assume—to move on to the best-of-three Baton Rouge Super Regional against LSU on Friday.