Monday, June 23, 2014

The Culture Change in Baseball is Happening

Baseball is America's pastime, and will be for the rest of its existence. And every so often, certain circumstances and events arise that cause a culture shift in the baseball community. Many more of these have happened recently, partially due to medical advances, and practices that are becoming more commonly accepted. As society progresses, all the cultures will follow suit, and baseball will not be left behind.

As the years go on, many star players of the 1950s and 1960s pass. Baseball had to say goodbye to one of its greats this year, when Don Zimmer passed away at the age of 83. But the community was shocked when "Mr. Padre" Tony Gwynn passed away of mouth cancer at the age of 54. Gwynn was diagnosed with this cancer in 2010, and even had surgery then to remove a few tumors from his salivary glands. It is well known that Gwynn got this cancer mainly from his many years of "packing lips", in layman's term, using chewing tobacco. Gwynn had said that he had been using chewing tobacco since the early 1980s. Players have started to wake up to the health facts behind chewing tobacco, and some are even quitting it as a whole. The Arizona Diamondbacks' closer Addison Reed, who was coached by Gwynn at San Diego State University, recently threw out all the tobacco packs he owned, which included several in his locker and a few more in his car. Like Gwynn, Reed picked up the habit in his early stages in his high school baseball career. Reed has been trying to shake the habit for a long time, and Gwynn's passing was the push he needed. Hopefully, many more players how use  chewing tobacco will follow the precedent that Reed has started.

Another pitcher who is setting an amazing precedent is San Diego Padre reliever Alex Torres, who recently became the first pitcher to wear the baseball cap with the added protection.

Torres was the relief pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays last year, who came on in relief for Alex Cobb after he was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Eric Hosmer, at an estimated speed of 102.4 miles per hour. As Torres said, "I'm just trying to protect myself, my life, and to see my kids grow up. I don't want to wait for something to happen". Many similar injuries like this have happened to pitchers lately. One of the worst was to Brandon McCarthy, who was hit in the head by a line drive, which actually fractured his skull.

Players are starting to learn that they are longer Superman, and some measures do have to be taken to make sure they cannot just prolong their baseball career, but also their life after baseball. Even though it is only one player giving up tobacco, and one player wearing a protective cap, the change is here, and will be spreading soon enough.

Bennett Schiff is a freshman in the Drexel Sport Management program, and one of the few members of the major from the powerful state of Rhode Island. He has volunteered for the U.S. Open of Squash held at Drexel as well as becoming a member of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity. Prior to arriving on Drexel's campus, Schiff was very active in his local community with his synagogue.

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