What are players talking about on the base paths?


(RAY STUBBLEBINE/REUTERS)

“It depends: If we’re close friends, usually it’s about hunting, families or something,” said NationalsAdam LaRoche, who as a first baseman gets the most visitors and is an avid hunter. “The majority of the time, what’s going on with their team. The pulse of the team, the pitcher they’re facing, what he just saw, umpires.”

Added Ian Desmond: “Some of us have been playing for so long, not necessarily in the big leagues, but guys I played with in the minor leagues for years and we rooted each other on to get here, so when I see them I say, ‘Hey man, keep it going.’”

LaRoche, who has played for five teams, including his first four seasons with the Atlanta Braves, said he will occasionally havequick, deep and heart-to-heart conversations with friends from other teams. With former teammate Chipper Jones, “that’s hunting every time,” LaRoche said.

Sometimes the topic will be each other’s families, wives, offseason plans and, in general, life, LaRoche said. He may compliment a swing or a hit, but never offer any hitting tips.

But, “some people you don’t like so you don’t talk to them at all,” said Desmond with a smile.

Players can also use the small talk to gauge or mess with their opponents. LaRoche said he jokes often, especially with younger players.

“I’ll make fun of them or say something real short just to see how they react,” he said. “And then I’ll open up.”

In between plays, Desmond will occasionally chat with an opponent, start with an innocuous “Hey, what’s up, man?”

“I kind of feel them out a little bit,” he said. “Know where their heads at. If they’re really focused, I know that’s a guy we’ve got to watch out for.”

At times, it can even distract the opponent in between pitches or slow them down by a hair, Desmond said.

If you catch a player smiling on television while chatting with an opponent, it’s not exactly fraternizing with the enemy, players said. In the baseball world, players often cross paths on teams or develop friendships. And, they play so much and so frequently, it’s okay to keep it loose.

“Maybe it looks bad when we’re over there laughing but, oh well, we play every night,” LaRoche said.

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James Wagner joined the Post in August 2010 and, prior to covering the Nationals, covered high school sports across the region.

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