Carlos Correa and the Houston Astros know that baseball is supposed to be fun – For The Win
NEW YORK — Carlos Gomez gets it.
“Baseball is a game,” the veteran outfielder said Tuesday before the Houston Astros’ season-opening 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium. “For me, personally, every time that I cross that line, I feel like it’s my first game. I’ve been doing this for 10 years at this level, and every time I feel it in my chest: I’m here. My dream has come true. I enjoy it. And every moment, every pitch, every second, means a lot to me, because it’s something I worked for my whole life. And who knows when you’re going to be out? So I take advantage that I’m here and enjoy it while I can. It’s not disrespecting anybody, it’s not showing up anybody. It’s that I’m enjoying it, and that I love baseball.”
Gomez, at the outset of his tenth season in the Majors, represents a forerunner of sorts of a new generation of ballplayers forcing a conversation about the game’s ever-stodgy and typically overblown “unwritten rules,” the ones that insist practically any display of on-field emotion should be taken as disrespect to the opponent or to baseball itself. On Monday, the same day Bryce Harper gave postgame interviews while wearing a hat reading “MAKE BASEBALL FUN AGAIN,” Carlos Correa, Gomez’s teammate and the 21-year-old reigning AL Rookie of the Year, published a lengthy post to SoleCollector.com explaining the responsibility he feels to help make the sport more entertaining.
“We want to be able to show our personalities out there,” Correa told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday. “We want to be able to show who we really are, not pretend to be all serious out there. We just want to have fun playing the game we love; that’s the bottom line.
“They say baseball is dying and stuff like that, but nobody’s doing anything to fix it. In basketball, you see Steph Curry wear different types of shoes, you see LeBron (James) wearing new shoes every single night. And they’re all over the internet, they’re all over Twitter. They trend. Baseball, you’ve got the same spikes every single game. Do you eat the same food every day? You’re going to get bored of it. I feel like we should evolve and get better, and be able to bring more style to the game.”
One of many frustrating aspects of baseball’s antiquated code of conduct is how haphazardly it is enforced. Last month, Gomez told USA TODAY Sports that he loves emotional pitchers like Max Scherzer and Jose Fernandez, a sentiment he reiterated (while adding Jake Arrieta to the list) on Tuesday. But pitchers, as Correa pointed out, hardly face the same type of criticism when they express themselves on the mound.
“People got mad about (Jose Bautista’s much-discussed ALDS) bat flip,” Correa said. “I thought it was a sick bat-flip. Everyone went nuts in our clubhouse when he hit that bomb. It was a decisive home run — losing by two runs, Game 5. It was something special.
“Now, if the pitcher struck him out with the bases loaded, he’s going to pound his chest, he’s going to start screaming, but nobody would say anything. The pitcher can do it but the hitters can’t do it? It’s a lot harder to hit a home run than to strike somebody out, so we should be able to have fun when we do it.”
Correa smacked an opposite-field homer to tie Tuesday’s game in the sixth inning, but placed his bat down rather gently as he took off around the basepaths. He also made a brilliant diving catch in short left field to take a base hit away from Alex Rodriguez. The young shortstop is arguably the most visible and most valuable player on a rebuilt Astros team favored in the AL West after surging to the top of the standings in 2015. And in stark contrast to their forever buttoned-up opponents on Tuesday, the Astros make little effort to mask their enjoyment of baseball.
“I don’t know if anyone has more fun than this group of characters that we have,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “We allow it. We want our guys to embody that. We want to be relatable to a lot of different generations. We respect the game and respect our opponents, but we will have as much fun as anybody in the game — behind the scenes as well as during the game. We’re young and we have a lot of exuberance.”
Correa and Harper stand as two of the foremost players in a new generation of wildly talented — and still very young — new baseball stars that have invigorated the sport in recent seasons. And Correa believes his stature comes with a responsibility to adjust the way fans see and enjoy the national pastime.
“We’re not trying to change the game, we’re just trying to change the perspective of how people see the game,” Correa said. “The trends, the styles, the personalities of the players: That’s important.”
Gomez, years into his own campaign against the sport’s reputation for tediousness, still considers the brand of baseball he’d like to watch from the grandstand.
“Baseball is not a job,” Gomez said. “When you take baseball like it’s a job, it’s not fun. When you take it as a game, and you appreciate that fans come and pay a lot of money to see you play, then you’re showing respect to the fans.
“You get paid a lot of money to do this, and you’re not going to have fun? You’re not going to show that you play hard every single day? It’s not fair, when the people play a lot of money. I play my game for the fans, because if I’m a fan, I’d come watch me play…. This is love. This is baseball.”