Why do players smell their bat? What does it tell them?
Superstition in baseball
Holly asked: I have seen them smell their bat very aggressively. What kind of smell are they looking for?
What does it tell them and how do they change their behavior based upon what they smell?
Rick answered: Holly, thank you for your question.
Your question puts us in the realm of baseball superstition.
While most all athletics/athletes are to some degree superstitious, baseball has a long history of it in the game, for players, owners, athletes, fans. No one is immune.
I have not seen anyone smell a bat, though nothing would surprise me.
Players are more likely to kiss their bat for good luck, which would look close to smelling it.
Players, from a young age, are taught to develop a routine for themselves, both for practice and games. Within these individual routines, some superstitions are bound to manifest themselves.
Early on hitters are taught to get in the box, stretch their bat across the plate and tap it on the plate, to be sure they are close enough to the plate to cover it with their bat.
Once you learn that determination, around age 6 or 7, you know where you should, or want to be in the box, and can let go of the tapping routine.
Many do, many do not, feeling that it has become a part of their setup, even though not essential.
As you watch games, you will notice many MLB players still tapping their bat. Wouldn't feel right without it.
There are as many superstitions as there are athletes who play the game, at all
levels. They can be related to the way they wear their pants, high, low, or in between. The order they get dressed in, whether or not they change their socks, the list is endless.
I had a player once who kept a baseball card of his favorite player, in the top of his locker. On game days, after he was dressed, he would prop the card up, step back and proceed to stare intently at the card.
Never skipped this routine, when we traveled the card made the trip, and the routine was safe. It meant something to him. Did it make him a better player? If he believed it did, then it did!
The photo above is surely superstition based, quite possibly for good luck. Could be as widespread as everyone on the team has this belief, or it may be just a few.
Many of the better baseball movies made had segments in the movie which dealt with baseball superstition. A few of my favorites, Major League, Major League 2, Bull Durham, Sandlot and the Natural. They all take a humorous look at superstition with the game, both team and individual.
Things players do to and with their equipment can be superstition oriented, or seeking information.
Often you will see hitters tap the knob end of their bat on the ground. They are checking to see if their bat may be cracked. Strictly information based.
Certainly a very interesting part of the game, one that has been around since it's inception, superstition shows no indication that it will disappear.
Yours in baseball,