It would be fair to say that Major League Baseball is going through a significant cultural identity crisis at the moment.
On one side of the fence are the traditionalists – people for whom the game symbolises respect and a certain decree of decorum.
Their views fly in the face of a new generation who are trying to drag America’s favourite pastime kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
With their over-zealous celebrations and willingness to bait opponents, they are the polar opposite of what baseball traditional stood for. Interestingly, many of them are from a Latino background.
Nearly 30 percent of players on Opening Day rosters were born outside the United States, with the Dominican Republic (99) and Venezuela (67) responsible for the biggest proportion.
Professional baseball has long featured Latino players, but they have historically been encouraged to tone down their public expressions of joy.
Things have been changing in recent years, with Latino players shrugging off the shackles to express themselves with ever increasing doses of freedom.
While speaking to Betway, former MLB star Jose Bautista said the cultural shift has made professional baseball more entertaining to watch.
He believes that Latin players bring a different flavour to the MLB driven by their individuality, cultural traits, signs of where they grew up and the type of personalities they possess.
He draws comparisons with soccer and other sports, saying different regions of the world play differently, which is great for the overall wellbeing of the sport.
Bautista insists that bringing more energy and passion is not better or worse or not right or wrong, it’s just different.
The ex-Toronto Blue Jays star is undoubtedly well-placed to comment on baseball’s cultural shift having been responsible for one the most iconic sporting moments in 2015.
Bautista was playing against Texas Rangers in the American League Division Series with Game 5 tied at 2-2 as the teams went into the seventh.
A mistake by Russel Martin, Jays’ catcher, led to the Rangers taking a 3-2 lead. Jays star Josh Donaldson helped tie the game, but it was still all to play for.
Two Blue Jays remained on first and third base when Bautista came into bat. JB hit a three-run home run, sparking pandemonium in the stands as the Jays snatched victory from seeming defeat.
Bautista then introduced the ‘bat flip’ – a move that sparked wild celebrations amongst Toronto fans and left viewers watching MLB streams gobsmacked.
The Rangers were extremely unhappy, describing his antics as ‘unsportsmanlike’, while many pundits dubbed the move as ‘disrespectful to the game’.
Despite the criticism, Bautista’s celebration laid the foundations for a seismic shift in the way players behave on the baseball field.
The 41-year-old has no regrets about flipping his bat, arguing that celebrations of this nature help to engage fans emotionally and get them to show passion from their stadium seats.
Bautista believes that now that some time has passed by, a celebration like ‘bat flipping‘ can become an iconic moment in games, much like iconic celebrations in other sports.
He insists he is glad that it has happened and is delighted that most people don’t see it as rule breaking or bringing the game into disrepute. Rather, if it brings the fans closer to the game and the players, it must be good for the game.