Through a fan’s perspective, baseball is a game all about stats, strikeouts and home runs, but to the players, superstitions and rituals play a large part.
From not stepping on the foul line when entering and exiting a baseball field to clothing choices, superstitions and rituals have come hand-in-hand since the beginning of sports.
SF State Gators’ pitcher Nolan Sheridan has a mental to-do list with precise times to help him prepare for each game he starts on the mound. He begins his pre-game ritual at 1:25 p.m. by running by himself in the outfield. When the clock strikes 1:45 p.m., the Gator cools off with a drink in the dugout and scurries to the mound to throw pitches into the glove of starting catcher Mark Lindsay by 1:50 p.m.
“The rituals kind of just happened,” Sheridan said. “You pitch good one day and you don’t change a thing. Other than that, it’s stuff you pick up in your head because it’s such a psychological game, like chess.”
Baseball has had superstitions since the days of “The Curse of the Bambino.” Boston fans believed that when the Red Sox sold star player Babe Ruth to the rival New York Yankees in 1918, they were jinxed. This ‘curse’ doomed the Red Sox from winning a World Series and lasted from 1918 to 2004, when they won their first World Series since selling Ruth.
This year’s Gator baseball team is no stranger to superstitions. Each player and coach has developed his own pre-game ritual over the years, and now the team has created new ones together.
“There’s some stuff that I think all baseball guys do,” said baseball head coach Mike Cummins. “The other day I came and washed the dugout out because we haven’t won a game at home yet. I just wanted to get the evil spirits out.”
Since cleaning out the dugout for those ‘evil spirits,’ the baseball team split a four-game home series against Cal State Los Angeles this past weekend. Each ritual that the players or coach have, supports the mentality they need to keep their high performance level up, or shake off any poor performances.
“I’ll drive to school a certain way, or I’ll wear certain clothes if we’re winning and if we’re losing I’ll change them,” Cummins said. “Like today I wore some clothes that I haven’t worn in a while just to kind of change things up.”
Humans cling to these rituals because their brains are accustomed to repetition and conditioned to believe certain factors are the key to our success, according to psychologist B.F. Skinner’s well-known pigeon experiment. These rituals are coded in our brains, and even though they seem crazy, it is a part of being a human being.
Unlike his teammates and coach, senior catcher Lindsay believes baseball is about mentality but does not buy into the superstition theory.
“To me it’s all about mentality,” Lindsay said. There’s nothing really to me that you can change or do something different and it’s all in the head.”