It’s been 18 months since Toronto slugger Jose Bautista launched the flip heard ’round the world—a brash toss of his bat, following a go-ahead playoff home run, that ignited a baseball culture war over how a man sets down his lumber after a home run.
Does he place it lightly on the grass, from the hip, with a light flick of the wrist?
Or does he launch it into the air like an underhand volleyball serve?
It’s a curious fault line for a sport whose most iconic moment is Babe Ruth calling his shot in the 1932 World Series against the Chicago Cubs—an unrivaled act of braggadocio that still inspires playground imitators. (Please, Babe: Respect the game.)
Yet here we are. Older players and fans tend to think the bat flip is a disrespectful act of showboating. Their younger counterparts, especially Latino players, have embraced this rare manifestation of exuberance and personality in a sport that suffers terribly from a lack of both.
And then there’s Philadelphia Phillies centerfielder Odubel Herrera, the Henry Ford of bat flips. In his capable hands, this luxury highlight is becoming an everyday occurrence, accessible to even the most casual of baseball viewers.
That’s in part thanks to the Twitter account Odubel’s Bat Flips, which has chronicled Herrera's novel approach of tossing his bat to commemorate all manner of occasions. Herrera flips when he gets a hit, when he takes a base on balls, and when he grounds out to second base.
This Twitter chronicle began with Herrera, the Venezuelan-born All-Star known as El Torito, flipping his bat three times in five plate appearances—a double, a grounder for a double play, a fly-out to center, and two walks—on Opening Day. Three bat flips in five appearances set him on pace for 486 flips in the season, Odubel’s Bat Flips noted.
Part of the fun, obviously, is in the telling, as this April 10 bat flip after a routine fly ball demonstrates:
ODUBEL HERRERA ENORMOUS BAT-FLIP. Just short of a Dinger, ended up a flyout. Thats a run in our book daddy. (11)— El Torito (@OdubelsBatFlips) April 11, 2017
Philadelphia International Airport cancellations in affect; Odubel Herrera's bat hasn't come down yet.— El Torito (@OdubelsBatFlips) April 11, 2017
Herrera’s first home run of the year on April 18 came, of course, with a side of bat flip—his 13th of the year. (El Torito’s pace slowed a bit after the season opener. As of May 9, he was up to 22 flips for the 2017 season.) But the real innovation in Herrera’s flipping, again, is that the most boisterous of tosses may come in response to a forgettable at-bat. These are the kind of flips, Cubs ace Jake Arrieta said this spring, that might get a guy hit in the ribs:
A dribbler to third for an out, but not without a highly unnecessary bat flip from the 🐐 (19)— El Torito (@OdubelsBatFlips) May 5, 2017
Arrieta needs to relax. The carefree El Torito, transforming the rarest of exclamation points into a daily punctuation mark, is just the player that baseball needs. By freeing the flip from its typical post-dinger landing spot, he has reminded us of the everyday jubilation that comes from hitting a baseball. Even if that ball is a measly grounder to second base.