It’s baseball season in the era of the iPhone.
There’s silence in the Minnesota Twins clubhouse, wrote StarTribune sports writer Jim Souhan last week while covering the Twins preparing for the new season during spring training.
The players sit quietly in front of their lockers before and after games glued to their iPhones. Right next to each other… on a TEAM. The clubhouse that once rocked with laughter, card games, and the loud voices of Twins leaders Kirby Puckett and Kent Hrbek on their way to a World Series is now like a morgue.
Teams that win have chemistry. You don’t build chemistry on iPhones. You don’t win a World Series playing with phantoms or staring into the pool for your own reflection – reading what the sports writers are saying about your individual performance. You win by bonding with the people around you. Men who play 162 games over a season find ways to keep the clubhouse loose. Boyish pranks like filling David Ortiz’s undershorts with ice so he wouldn’t notice that you had smeared his trousers with peanut butter. Stunts like reserve catcher Mike Redmond strutting naked through a tense clubhouse bellowing out a solo that cracks open the ice after a bad game. A baseball season is a long time, a long grind with losing streaks and winning streaks and long road trips where your only friends are your teammates.
Baseball teams that make it to the World Series are not quiet. They have some fun. They play. Not just on the field but on the buses, the planes, and in the restaurants and hotels where the team stays for a week or more far from home.
Twins fans can hope that when the new generation of Twins players sit by their lockers with their iPhones, they will come across Jim Souhan’s advice in this morning’s StarTRibune.
“Show us something this year.
“Heck, show us anything.
“Show us some fire, some grit; some passion, some promise.
“Show us that three years of unprofessional play was a detour, not a destination.
“Show us that you care about something other than paychecks and per diems.
Joe Mauer is the best player on the Twins, a future Hall of Famer. But he’s as emotionally flat as flatbread or a flat tire. He’s predictable. No strolls through the clubhouse singing an aria to break open the silence, no shaving cream pies, no jokes, no ice in another players under shorts or peanut butter, just a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread eaten along in front of his locker, waiting to take hie new position at first base. If there’s passion in Joe, it doesn’t show.
Give us some passion. Bring on Kirk Gibson coming to the plate in the World Series on knees so bad he could barely walk, throwing his fire into a swing that pushed the ball over the fence with nothing but the pure grit from the fire in his belly, hobbling around the bases like a man recovering from hip surgery. Give me Kirk, Joe.
New rule: No iPhones, iPads, or any other such distractive devices in the clubhouse. Put ’em down. Get to know each other before you take the field. I’d wager that the first team to institute that rule would go the World Series not because they’re the most talented but because they care about each other and they care about playing as a team.