Baseball Reflections

SMALLS TALK: The Curtain Call

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Just when you think a crowd can’t get any more hopped up, it happens. The hero that just brought the stadium to its feet pokes his head out of the dugout, jumps up on the top step, and offers a tip of the cap to the home town fans. And just like that, the steady stadium cheers erupt into an even louder collective roar.

Rick Ankiel - Curtain call

It’s a perfect baseball moment. In a game of countless traditions, the curtain call has all the ingredients needed to leave everyone in attendance feeling good about themselves, their team, and most importantly, the state of our national pastime. It’s a beautiful thing, really.

A huge play – usually, but not always, a home run – just took place: a giant momentum swing that changed the entire landscape of the game. The fans are going nuts, and they’re not stopping until their appreciation gets acknowledged. So they cheer. And they cheer. And they cheer some more. And just when you think the noise is finally about to die down, here comes our man.

For a player, it’s the biggest thrill imaginable. After getting bombarded with dugout high-fives, hugs, and atta boy’s, the hero of the moment places his batting helmet back in the rack and slowly takes off his batting gloves, taking in the moment and yucking it up with teammates as the crowd shakes the stadium walls around him. The fans want another peek at their star – but they’ll have to wait. At least for a moment.

As a player, you can never assume the curtain call. The call is a privilege – the crowd determines your fate. So while the crowd waits, the player does the same. He’s making small talk, exchanging one-liners, detailing his big play for inquiring teammates – but really, he’s gauging the crowd. How loud are they? How long have they been cheering? Do they seem stubborn in their volume level or are they fading?

As the hero acts oblivious to the crowd’s desires, it’s time for the dugout to step in and play a role in the fun. The game-changer’s teammates are fully aware of what’s going on and surround him, enlightening him to the situation and encouraging him to grant the people’s wish. By getting involved, the teammates serve two purposes: most obviously, they facilitate the curtain call for the fans, but in doing so they also help their teammate come off as incredibly modest and humble for not initiating the curtain call on his own, which can at times be a risky move.

It is when they begin pushing him toward the dugout steps that the hero finally emerges from the dugout cover and engages in one of the greatest unspoken player-crowd interactions in all of sports. The fans go wild, the hero smiles, the dugout laughs, the home team wins, and everyone goes home happy. What a game.

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