The United States and Puerto Rico will face off in the World Baseball championship game. Billy Witz of The New York Times wrote a piece highlighting the difference of styles between the two teams. Broadly, the Puerto Ricans show more more emotion on the diamond — from bat-flipping to the extra flair in Javy Baez’s defensive wizardry. The Americans are, depending on your point of view, more even-keeled or joyless robots.
Second baseman Ian Kinsler spoke to this.
"“I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays,” Kinsler said. “That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”"
Now, it’s easy to see why people would have a negative reaction to this. If there’s one thing people love to do, it’s to belittle the old-school way of playing baseball. Personally, however, I read his comments less of a slight and more as an example of what makes the event worthwhile.
Kinsler made it clear he wasn’t trying to put down the style employed by Puerto Rico or the Dominican Republic. He wasn’t belittling it nor was he stating that the so-called American way is the correct or only mindset. It’s just … different.
The WBC is a celebration of baseball and the dynamic ways it’s played around the globe. One can appreciate the quirks of the Japanese team and the exciting brand of ball by teams from the Caribbean. One can also appreciate the way Kinsler and other Americans grew up playing.
The key is to have an open mind. Nothing in Kinsler’s quote suggests, to me, that his is closed. To be fair, similar statements are usually tinged with some superiority or judgement that certain shows of emotion don’t have a place on the diamond.
It’s silly to pretend there are no difference between the two teams left standing. It’s a good thing that fans can watch and judge for themselves which one suits them.