It’s human nature to want to feel comfortable.
Nobody likes a rock in their shoe, or a bad taste in their mouth, or that nagging feeling that you’ve left the oven on.
Ballplayers are no different.
For some Royals players, “being comfortable” amounts to more than just making sure equipment fits right. Sometimes, the lengths to which players will go extends beyond rituals to the superstitious.
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“I couldn’t give you any reason why people are superstitious or why superstitions make you do the same exact thing, but yeah, it makes me feel good,” Royals catcher Drew Butera said.
Few players, Butera included, are willing to admit that they have superstitions.
“I don’t, no. Nothing specific,” Butera said, before launching into the specifics.
“Whenever, something goes well I just do the same thing the day before,” Butera said. “Maybe a place I eat; or I wear the same undershirt, or the same pair of socks. I wash them. I’m not that superstitious. But I don’t have anything major.
“As long as we keep winning, I keep wearing it. For me it’s nothing really personal, it’s just, if we win, I keep wearing the same exact stuff. If we win every day, I’ll eat at the same place every day.”
Other players follow simple routines.
“I think every guy has his routine before games,” first baseman Eric Hosmer said. “You know, we always go to the batting cage, or get on the line to stretch, kind of the routine you go through every day, but no real superstitions for me.”
While some players insist that they don’t do anything weird, they are more than willing to point out what their teammates do.
“Yeah, I know (Alcides Escobar) has one where he’ll wear his pants up or down on nights (depending on) whether or not he got a hit,” Hosmer said of the Royals shortstop. “Or (he will) change up his cleats or something like that if he doesn’t get a hit.”
“Salvy’s got his Victoria’s Secret perfume that he wears,” Hosmer added, “but that’s not really a superstition. It’s just an everyday thing.”
Some players might not have any rituals before the game, but once they’re inside the lines, it’s a different story.
“When I’m on the mound, in between each inning I come up on the mound and wipe the pitcher’s plate clean, just to wipe away the last inning,” pitcher Christian Binford said.
Binford said that ritual started when he was young.
“Early on, I really wanted to make sure that I had a short memory as a pitcher,” he said. “Because if I had a bad inning I didn’t want it to carry on into the next one, so I needed to make something for myself that kind of wiped the previous inning away. And that was the easiest for me … to wipe off the plate. Kind of symbolic for me, and it stuck with me.”
Outfielder Paulo Orlando is one of many with a ritual when taking or leaving the field. He avoids stepping on any lines — but he has a specific way of doing it.
“Every time when I go onto the field, I put my right foot across the line first and jump on the right foot over the line,” Orlando said.
Outfielder Lorenzo Cain was emphatic that he doesn’t have any superstitions.
“No, not really superstitious, never have been. I don’t really do anything specific before the game or after the game,” Cain said.
Not true, according to Orlando.
“Lo Cain, every time, every inning, he goes into the dugout and ties his shoes,” Orlando said. “He takes it off and puts his spikes on and ties again. I go, ‘Lo why do you do that?’ and he says, ‘Every time, every time.’ It’s funny to watch.”
Cain came clean and admitted that maybe it’s a little excessive.
“I mean, I do it maybe a little more than I should, but Paulo always gets on to me, ‘Hey Lo Cain’s tying his shoe again,’ and I always take my shoes off in the dugout a lot, too. Not really a superstition, just something I do a lot,” Cain said.
When it comes down to it, players agree it’s all about being comfortable during the game.
“Well, you know there’s a routine, where, you know if you don’t go to the gym, you might feel a little bit uncomfortable that day,” infielder Orlando Calixte said. “So you try to do your whole routine every day so that you don’t fail, so that you don’t feel uncomfortable.”
For Binford, it’s so crucial he won’t go forward if he hasn’t hit his routine just right.
“I stop everything, kind of redo it all, so I have that routine every inning,” Binford said. “I know when I don’t do it because I feel kind of awkward, but I stop and I’ll go back and redo it and I’ll go back through it. I’ve done it since high school.”
“It’s all about the feel for me,” Cain said. “If my cleats aren’t a certain way, my glove’s not a certain way, my batting gloves not a certain way, I just have to adjust, adjust.”
Cuyler Meade is a senior in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.