Let’s talk about the On-Deck Circle. As a professional theatre actor, and sports lover, it’s one of the few things to make the cross between the two. Every day while waiting to audition I’ll almost always hear “hey, ______ you’re on deck”. And everyone gets it! It’s a magical moment for me, because I spend a lot of time trying to convince my non-sports-minded people that they actually have more grasp of odd sports lingo than they think. On Deck is the perfect thing to point to.
I doubt this is the reason why I find the On Deck circle so fascinating, but it’s a nice segue, yeah? Look, Mom. I’m a real writer.
It’s a part of baseball most people don’t even really notice except for when you’re at a game and you hear a small being ask their parent, “hey (Mom/Dad), why is that guy standing there swinging the bat?” At which point their parent will talk about the important readiness, and for being supportive for their team. Other than that? It’s just a thing we’ve come to expect in baseball.
Yet in the last two weeks, I’ve noticed that the politics of the On-Deck circle can be vast. Fellow 3Up3Down writer Andrew Wilhelm mentioned it in his post earlier this year, “The Unwritten Rulebook” when discussing where to warm up between innings. There are rules at every level involving where the on deck circle has to be, when you can be in it, and even if you have to be in it at any point.
Recently, there were a couple moments involving the On-Deck Circle that I found fascinating.
Let’s back up a couple weeks. Marlins v. Phillies, bottom of the 9th, tie ball game at 5-5, 2 outs, bases loaded, Marlins up to bat. This is a dream of a situation to report on, because the tension is high, and the next batter is going to quite literally decide the course of the game. If they are out, we move on to the 10th inning. If they get a hit? Game over. Up to the plate steps Marcell Ozuna, batting cleanup. It really was the perfect moment, a cleanup batter getting to hit bases loaded and two outs on an at bat that will decide the game? Popcorn came out, and I was caught in rapt attention.
But then I stopped paying attention to the play entirely, because I was puzzled to see Justin Bour take the field. He stood in the On-Deck circle, swinging his bat, intently focused on his upcoming At Bat.
Except he didn’t have one. This is where I was so interested. No matter what, Ozuna would be the final At Bat of the inning, good or bad. Bour could warm up his shoulders but he would either be dropping his bat to run and celebrate with Ozuna, or he’d be heading back to the dugout to get his glove. Was he unaware of where we were in the game? That suggests a remarkable lack of gameplay knowledge. Was he just on autopilot? And if so did no one think to tap him on the shoulder as he headed out and go “love the effort, dude, but it’s overexertion at this point.” Did anyone in the dugout notice and then laugh at him about it later? I probably would have done that. I’m also an asshole, though.
It didn’t stop there, though! Ozuna did not get a hit and so on to the 10th we went. Bottom of the 10th? We have two outs, bases loaded, and up to bat steps Dee Gordon. I realized what was happening and I immediately looked to the On-Deck Circle, and low and behold?
Empty. Giancarlo Stanton was nowhere to be seen. Fully aware of his uselessness in the situation.
Gordon hit a single, and the game was over. But it got me thinking, baseball fans are notoriously superstitious. Did anyone notice this? Were there Marlins fans screaming at their TVs about how Bour jinxed out Ozuna, and then celebrated Stanton from learning from the mistake? Did anyone slug Bour in the arm as he headed back into the dugout? What is the etiquette here? Are players expected to take the On-Deck circle in solidarity or are they expected to stay in the dugout since they will not be appearing that inning?
Is this a worthwhile question? Maybe not but I’ve been thinking about it since it happened. And then on Wednesday, the On-Deck circle was back in the spotlight and all of a sudden I find myself thinking about the rules of the On-Deck Circle again.
BASK IN THAT SMILE!
Is there anyone who doesn’t love Adrian Beltre? You? You’re a liar. Everyone loves Beltre, he’s universally beloved, generally hilarious, and definitely on his way to Cooperstown. His smile practically radiates sunlight.
Look at him. LOOK AT HIM. You can’t look away. Lost in his eyes. Just me? Okay.
Anyways this Texas Teddy Bear was warming up this past Wednesday, minding his own business, taking some practice swings, and a few steps away from the circle. The umpires lead by Gerry Davis were just not having it. They told him to move closer to the On-Deck circle. Beltre looked at them confused. Why? Probably because this is not a real thing. Watch any game, no one is on the circle, sometimes they’re practically in the stands drinking someone’s beer, and other times they might as well be a first base line obstruction. I mean players are all over the place when it comes to the circle. And YET it was time to make an example of Beltre, which is sort of like yelling at a puppy because you think your cat is being an asshole.
What happened next is actual comedy gold.
Adrian Beltre is the greatest and Gerry Davis is in need of a sense of humor. pic.twitter.com/y9Mi5EMoC0
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 27, 2017
Come on, Gerry! That’s hilarious! This man is chasing 3000 hits, he doesn’t care about your etiquette. The pitcher didn’t even complain. He wasn’t bothering anyone. LEAVE BELTRE ALONE. I’m voting Beltre for president. Anyone who moves the On-Deck circle should be given a medal, especially when he moves it a solid amount of distance.
Adrian Beltre was ejected for dragging the on-deck circle after ump asked him to get in it. You can see how far he moved it. pic.twitter.com/EdthGPrLNC
— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) July 27, 2017
So after all that, I have a question.
Are there any rules governing the On-Deck Circle? Are they written? Or Unwritten. Does any of this matter? Probably not, but it’s the kind of thing that keeps me awake at night.
Lastly, because I’m really really really not a fan, let’s not forget that this happened.