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Nothing Wrong With Rookie Hazing When It Does Not Cross Line

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After watching the prank the Chicago Cubs pulled on rookie third baseman Kris Bryant yesterday, I started thinking about the treatment rookie athletes get in their respective sports.

Bryant final went yard for his first career Major League regular season homerun after getting pulled up last month. He had gone 20 games and 73 at-bats before homering off Milwaukee Brewers’ pitcher Kyle Lohse. This was the longest non-homer drought of Bryant’s college or professional career.

After Bryant returned to the dugout after trotting the bases, there was no one around. He walked around to the clubhouse that is fairly close to the dugout and saw teammates, coaches, and manager Joe Maddon. Bryant said, “it was kind of like a mosh pit, punching me and all that kind of stuff.”

Baseball is known for hazing rookies. Remember when Robinson Cano and Chien Ming Wang were rookie with the New York Yankees and forced by teammates to wear cheerleading outfits outside Yankee Stadium as they signed autographs? What about when Tampa Bay Rays’ relief pitcher Brandon Gomes headed to the bullpen with an opened Dora the Explorer umbrella as he pulled a matching rolling bag?hazing2

Athletes from other sports like the NBA and NFL have many similar hazing practices with players dressing in costumes among the most popular. Receiving haircuts from teammates or bleaching sections of their hair are also common rituals. Carrying gear from the field back to the locker room are other ways teams try too haze rookie teammates. Some of my favorites are when NFL rookies are asked to sing their college fight song in front of teammates and the coaching staff in the middle of the cafeteria during training camp. Sports like soccer and soccer do many of the same rituals I am sure.

None of the examples are provided were inappropriate for professional athletes. They did not cross the line and are fun ways to show athletes they are being accepted by teammates. The problem arises when players go too far. This was the case with many Miami Dolphins who mercilessly bullied offensive lineman Jonathan Martin his entire rookie season and half his second season until he had enough and walked away from the team. The boiling point was when Martin sat down to eat lunch with teammates and the entire table stood up and moved to another table.

Former NFL player Brendon Ayanbadejo shared a story about when he was in training camp with the Chicago Bears in 2006. When a rookie was not cooperating with the hazing requests of veterans, someone grabbed plastic wrap and bound the player’s entire body except his head. Players then carried the player to the ice tub area and threw him into an ice bath. Ayanbadejo realized the player was basically stuck in the ice bath with no way to get out. While players stood around and starting laughing, Ayanbadejo’s inner voice asked, “What the hell are we doing?” Ayanbadejo immediately stopped and ended the hazing. He pulled the rookie out of the tub and said you’ve had enough. Ayanbadejo helped him get unwrapped and gave him a towel to help him warm up.

Hazing has also become popular amongst high school athletes. More often than not, high school hazing goes too far. There  is no place for hazing at the high school level. If high school athletes are ever fortunate enough to become a professional athlete, they can have fun with innocent hazing rituals.

And that’s As I See It!

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Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Scott D. Mikulski

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