Home runs are visceral. Home run to bring ‘em out of the seats. Home runs spark a reaction.
Batters experience the happy side of home runs – the glory and the accomplishment. The current style (going on 20 years or so) for home run celebration is the bat flip. Toss your bat aside with maximum flair or “pimp” your home run. Opposing team doesn’t like it? Get me out.
Here Wil Myers displays some bat flip technique belying his youth and inexperience. This is an elite bat flip.
The other side of the coin is the defense. The pitcher and catcher, scheming together to concoct a plan of attack, only to see the batter go deep. The anguish of a mistake or a bad pitch call.
In the GIF above, we see two pretty typical reaction from both parts of the battery. Both turn to watch the flight of the ball, hoping for the best. As confident as Myers in this shot, the battery holds out hope that the ballpark might keep it. (Video)
Sometimes, after a ball leaves the bat, the outcome is not in doubt. It is here we see the greatest variety in reaction – not unlike the grieving process. The type of reaction often relates directly to the potential distance a home run will travel and/or the significance of the moment.
Scouring the archives, researchers for theScore discovered six stages of home run acceptance. Here are the six stages of home run acceptance.
It doesn’t happen too often (and when it does, it seems like Texas is the place for it) but few things are more delightful than a pitcher pointing up to a fly ball only to see it sail over the fence. His intentions are so pure, he wants to give his fielder’s a better idea of where the ball is headed. Sadly, the ball is headed for the seats and you’re probably headed to the showers, meat.
There is a lot to unpack in this GIF, frankly. Look beyond Papi’s all-world bat flip and you’ll see pitcher and catcher struggle to accept this outcome in their own way. The catcher shoots an accusing glance into the dugout while pitcher Hiroki Kuroda is just…frustrated? HIROK isn’t quite sure how he feels. Thus, nonplussed. Extra points for the hands on the hips. (Video)
Matt Cain of the Giants just letting it all out. You see this from time to time but not as often as you’d think. The last thing a pitcher wants to do is get rattled on the mound. Extremely loud cursing, while cathartic, doesn’t take the runs off the board and it doesn’t make anyone a better pitcher. Plus it goes against the professional code of feelings in a public place. (Video)
The cousin of anger, bitterness is dangerous foe indeed. Anger suggests fault and the slightest bit of ownership. “I made an error and let myself down.” Bitterness looks more like blaming everyone else for your troubles. Perhaps even blaming the universe for the cosmic injustice currently ruining your life. Watch the above video and observe Cole Hamels reaction. Disgust and no small amount of bitterness.
Then Evan Gattis came up for the third time in the game.
To that point of the game, Hamels allowed a single hit – the previous Gattis homer. He gave up just two hits through eight innings on this afternoon. You can see them both above. Despite pitching masterfully, Hamels allows two home runs on two different pitches. After the second one leaves Gattis’ bat, Hamels lets loose with an arm-flapping display of bitterness we can all admire.
To the untrained eye, this looks awfully similar to “bitterness.” There is a key difference, however. The above moving image suggests a thought process along the lines of “I can’t believe this is happening.” Disbelief.
In cases of bitterness, the thought is actually “I can’t believe this is happening to me.” (Video)
Sometimes there is no need to spend even one extra second reliving the indignity of allowing a long home run. Give me a new ball, tell the next guy to get in the box, let’s put that mistake behind us. Even though it sounds the most reasonable, it often leaves the pitcher looking like a psychopath.
In the above video, R.A. Dickey holds no false ideal where that ball is headed. But his (presumed) dead-eyed stare at the plate is unsettling. To his credit, Dickey at least keeps his head held high.
Like, come on, Darvish. You hanging your head just makes me shake mine. Sure, Mike Trout nearly hit one over the batter’s eye in Texas but it’s on the first inning! Man, bad body language on this guy. NOT an ace. So what if the catcher is doing the exact same thing, he probably learned it from Darvish. (Video)
1. Meltdown a.k.a The Hanigan
While this behavior from now-Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan is not unique to this moment from the 2012 NLDS, it is perhaps his signature moment of sheer rage/frustration/disappointment/disgust. It’s all there as Buster Posey‘s shot effectively ended the Reds season.
In many ways, Ryan Hanigan deserves credit for putting it all out there and wearing his heart on his sleeve. This reaction gets to number 1 not just because Hanigan melts down behind the plate but also for Mat Latos all but zombie lurching directly to the dugout. His year is done, bro. No time like the present. (Video)
The Perfect Storm
As stated above, there is a direct relationship between home run length and degree of home run reaction. As such, this famous Giancarlo Stanton bomb sets off a chain reaction of anguish that hits all the right notes.
You get a nonplussed/bitterness hybrid from pitcher Josh Roenicke, a scaled-down meltdown from the Rockies catcher (because this is a nothing game) and an added bonus from uninterested Colorado center fielder Dexter Fowler. Fowler does not offer a token chase for this monstrous shot over his head. There is no point jogging ofter a ball that was over your head before you could take a second step. The ball is gone and it ain’t coming back. Just a great performance from all involved.