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Mike Schmidt: ‘I can’t imagine baseball without spitting’

As baseball gets ready to come back, habits need to change.

The 120-page safety manual provided by the league to teams and players on Tuesday said spitting and finger-licking are not allowed. 

Mike Schmidt helped the Phillies win their first World Series title in 1980.(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)

The change caught the attention of legendary Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt, who appeared as a guest on “Marks & Reese” on 94 WIP.

“I don’t know how you can have a baseball season when you can’t spit,” Schmidt said. You have to be able to spit in baseball. I can’t imagine baseball without spitting.”

Now, the question that arises is what will happen if a player or coach does end up spitting? Well, the Hall of Famer has one thought. 

“The umpires are going to be ‘hey you spit. You are out of here, I saw you spit’”, Schmidt said jokingly. 

Back in May, former Phillies manager Gabe Kapler told KNBR 680, the local sports station in San Francisco, that it is going to be a “tremendous challenge” to not spit during games after he finishes his coffee. 

“From there I transition to seeds. Sunflower seeds in the middle of the game. As much as you can fit — you’re just spitting the seeds on the ground. I’m not alone,” Kapler said on KNBR. “So many players, staff have routines like the one I just described. Different, but similar. They’re all going to have to stop those routines. That is going to be a tremendous challenge.”

It is often said that baseball is a sport whose culture is built from habits. However, with the current state, the world is in, breaking the habit, for the time being, does bring a positive trade-off with baseball being played. 

“When you’ve been doing it your whole life, it’s like breaking any habit. It’s going to be hard when things get stressful not to default to the habit,” Kapler said. “ But I can tell you this: Everybody’s going to be committed to doing it because it’s so worth it. The trade-off between giving up that habit and getting to play baseball, we’ll play baseball all day long.”

When a pitcher licks his fingers and hands it is to moisture his skin just enough to have a better grip on the ball. 

To help out pitchers and limit the spread of the coronavirus, the league will allow them to carry a “wet rag” in their pocket to wet their fingers before pitches. Just like breaking the habit of spitting sunflower seeds, it is going to take time for pitchers to not lick their hands and use the “wet rag”. 

“That’s definitely going to be tough. I lick my fingers 24/7 when I’m pitching. And I’ve done it my whole career. It will be a tough thing to change,” Phillies pitcher Aaron Nola said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark a few weeks ago.

The safety of the players, coaches and umpires will be the utmost importance throughout the season, especially as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise in parts of the country. However, not seeing sunflowers being chewed and pitchers licking their hands is going to be weird, but again, nothing about this season will be normal. 


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