Opening Day Brings Out Baseball Players' Nutty Rituals

Maressa Brown

baseball mitt ballNothing says, "Okay, NOW it's spring!" like Opening Day for baseball season! It really does make me feel a lot better about the fact that the weather forecast for tomorrow calls for snow. Because before you know it, we'll be catching some rays while sitting in the stands, eating crackerjack and hot dogs, and watching our favorite baseball players on the field.

Starting today, those players may be pulling out all the stops and tricks up their sleeves to make the 2011 baseball season their most successful yet. Baseball's filled with superstition. As a Cubs fan, trying to beat the Curse of the Billy Goat year after year, I totally understand why players might try to appeal to an unknown power or repeat the same routine they did before a hot streak -- from eating chicken before every game to wearing a necklace made of animal teeth -- to tap into their best luck.

Here, a few of the craziest and greatest superstitions held by current ball players ...

Jorge Posada, New York Yankees catcher, hits barehanded. He believes that urinating on his hands helps avoid calluses and hardening of the skin, so he does it during training and then regularly throughout the season. He even warns people, "You don't want to shake my hand during spring training!" Gross, gross, gross!

Nick Swisher, who also plays for the Yankees, is said to be very superstitious. He keeps a broken gnome and a toy rattlesnake in his locker to bring luck to the game.

Wily Moe Peña, who plays for the Arizona Diamondbacks, has a really involved superstition. In the on-deck circle, he sniffs the pine tar on the handle of his black, 35-inch model C43 Louisville Slugger. He starts at the handle and slowly moves toward the barrel. When he gets near the meat of the bat, he opens his mouth and grips the bat as if he's being fitted for a mouthpiece. Then he bites it with his teeth and gives it a kiss?! Hey, whatever works for ya, buddy.

Tim Wakefield, a Red Sox vet, tries to do a crossword puzzle a day. He doesn't always finish, he says, and that was something he only started when he began playing for the Sox in the mid-'90s.

Josh Beckett, who is the starting pitcher for the Red Sox, has reported that this is what his superstitious pre-game agenda looks like: Assemble a stack of 8x10 glossy photos of that day’s opposing batters, cover in fresh-drawn yak’s blood, set afire, then check locker ammo supply in case rebel insurgents launch coup mid-game, and finally, watch Oprah. Anyone else have a feeling he's screwing with us?? (Then again, he DOES play for the Red Sox!!)

Jason Giambi, who currently plays with the Colorado Rockies, is said to wear a gold lamé, tiger-stripe thong under his uniform when he wants to break out of a slump -- and he shares it with hitless teammates who want to get back on track. Suuuure, it's just a superstition. Maybe he actually moonlights at Chippendales?! Rumor has it, though, that in the past slumping former teammates Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Johnny Damon, Robin Ventura, and Robison Cano have all at some point donned the gold thong!! Hahaha, craaaaazy!

Thongs or no thongs, chicken or no chicken, Billy Goat Curse or not (no, it really exists, I'm telling you), pro-baseball players will do their best to make 2011 the year for their team. This early on, we can't be too worried about winning anyway. But it sure is funny to hear all the rituals that go down behind the bench.

Do you know of any other baseball superstitions? Do you have any of your own?


Image via Casey Fleser/Flickr

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