Greg Mercer, Record staff
KITCHENER — By any measure, it was a big home run. But the debate it sparked among baseball fans everywhere has been even bigger.
In Game 6 of the Intercounty Baseball League final, the Barrie Baycats’ Starlin Rodriguez hit a two-run homer in the seventh inning — giving his team the lead over the Kitchener Panthers, and ultimately their fifth championship in a row.
But it was what Rodriguez did afterward that has drawn the most attention.
This is the controversial 2-run homer from Starlin Rodriguez in the 7th that broke a 3-3 tie, gave @IBLBaycats the lead for good in their series clinching game, and drew the ire of the Panthers. #IBLFinals #IBL100 #batflip pic.twitter.com/kWxuxO6Z7U— Ken Hashizume (@khash27) September 10, 2018
The former St. Louis Cardinals prospect stood at home plate and admired the shot for what seemed like an eternity, then dramatically threw his bat high into the air and slowly trotted around the bases.
Old-school baseball fans were outraged, arguing it broke one of the game’s biggest unwritten rules — don’t show up the pitcher. To a lot of Baycats fans, however, it was display of pure joy, and one of biggest moments in team history.
A video of Rodriguez’ bat flip went viral online, getting picked up by media outlets across the U.S., including Sports Illustrated, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, SBNation and Barstool Sports, where it was viewed almost 1.3 million times on Instagram. The clip was also aired on MLB Network, TSN and ESPN.
Rodriguez wasn’t ejected for his antics — he left the game with a groin injury. Instead, it was his teammate Steve Lewis who was tossed in the aftermath. Also ejected were Kitchener’s Mike Schnurr, who threw a pitch behind the next batter, and manager Luke Baker.
The Baycats' manager Angus Roy described the bat flip as a emotional outburst after an intense game. Kyle DeGrace, Barrie's catcher, also defended the celebration, arguing the Panthers ran up the score back on June 7 in a 20-6 game.
"All I’ll say is Starlin hit his when it mattered, in a crucial game and smashed it to the parking lot, so yeah, I’m glad he stood there and watched every second of it go over the fence," DeGrace told Barrie Today.
It was a heated moment, but there’s nothing wrong with big displays of emotion in baseball, the commissioner said.
“It was a great series, and it was pretty intense. At the end of the day, there was lots of intensity and a little bit of sandpaper, and sports is best played that way,” Kastner said.
“You can say, ‘I wish it was something else people were talking about,’ like a double play or a home run. But the fact is it’s these sorts of things that gets social media traction.”
The frustrating part, Gordner said, is that the bat flip overshadowed what was a hard-fought and entertaining championship series between two well-matched teams.
“It was such a great series, and unfortunately it’s overlooked because of one bat flip,” he said.