Category Archives: Signs

Baseball: A game of signs

A stare lasting a shade too long. A subtle smile. Hair twirling. Compliments. Over-laughing at fairly lame jokes. Playful touches to the arm.

These are all subtle signs a lady might use to let a guy they are interested in know that they are indeed interested. Or maybe not. Or maybe. Or who knows? Maybe said lady is just really friendly.

If these signs have a purpose and the guy doesn’t pick them up, you can get annoyed and perturbed at how dumb we can be. If you were just being friendly, and the guy reads into them just a little too much, we can end up looking stupid. Signs and signals are only valuable if the message is received loud and clear from sender to receiver.

For as dumb as ballplayers look,

Thinkin hurts ma brain...
Thinkin’ hurts ma brain…

sound (“When you come to a fork in the road, take it!” – Yogi Berra), or act (buying steroids with easily traceable checks), every player has to memorize a complex system of signs and signals.

For example, my bunt sign for high school baseball was a tap on the top of the head to “open the box” of signs. Then the bill of the cap was touched as an indicator that a sign was coming. Exactly two signs after the indicator, the right wrist (left wrist meant something entirely different) was touched to indicate bunt followed by a touch to the chest to “close the box” of signs. If the box was never opened, closed, or if the indicator was never touched, no sign was on even if the coach touched a varying appendage that meant something.

Throw in the fact that the indicator changed every inning and the idea that if you missed a sign, your playing time would be in jeopardy, and suddenly ballplayers aren’t so stupid.

These signs apply to every strategy in baseball. Coaches reside in the dugout and must relay the signs to their first and third base coaches who must then relay the signs to various players. All this must be done without the other team knowing or the strategy would become worthless.

Pitchers and catchers have their own form of signs for every pitch. For example, my catcher puts down one finger for a fastball, two for a curveball, three for a change-up, and wiggle four fingers for a split-finger fastball. Should the hitter pick these signs up and know what pitch is coming, their ability to hit the ball is increased exponentially.

This is why a certain level of gamesmanship is conducted to “steal” signs. Knowing what the other team is going to do before they do it can be the difference between winning and losing.

Going back to the dating example, imagine if everyone wore their personality and intentions on their face for all to see. Would you date “I’m a borderline psychopath who may or may not have missed  my medications?” Or how about “I’m only in it for the sex and when I finally get it, you will have a better chance contacting Osama bin Laden?”

Knowing the other team’s signs is exactly the same. You know their intentions and you can respond accordingly. But then again, what’s the fun in that? Don’t you want to date “I’m a total cheapskate who likes to order water with lemons then I mash-up the lemons and add sugar to make lemonade so I don’t have spend money on lemonade?’ And you’re surprised that guy would make you pay for your meal…


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