“It’s a fraternity, man,” Atlanta Braves utility man Eric Hinske said. “You’re in the big leagues. Everybody is cordial, unless you get in a bench-clearing brawl. We’re all human. We’re out there having fun.”
The conversations are mostly small talk: How is the family? How are you doing? What are you doing in the offseason? How are the fans this season? Nationals first baseman Adam LaRoche and Braves third baseman Chipper Jones, close friends and former teammates, always talk about hunting while on the bases. When Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond comes across a face he remembers from his time in the minor leagues, he offers encouragement: Happy to see you here and keep it up.
“Most players will at least say hi,” Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa said.
“You’re talking to a guy that’s been around so I pretty much know everybody,” Jones said. “I can strike up a conversation with just about anybody out there.”
Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard and Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman are known as polite. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips is chatty. Kevin Millar, now retired, and White Sox first baseman Adam Dunn, a former National, crack jokes. New York Mets third baseman David Wright likes to talk baseball, balls and strikes. Even with bitter division rivals, players say small talk still occurs.
“We’re not fighting rivals,” Nationals first baseman Tyler Moore said. “We want to win but they’re cool on the field and off.”
There are small courtesies. If a player gets a hit or works a pitcher for a walk, it’s within understood etiquette to compliment him. It’s also okay to tell the opponent how clean the hit was or if it was a borderline error. But if the hit put the opposing team up or it’s a close game, players don’t often talk. They also do not share batting tips.
Not all players are approachable. Two-time all-star Darin Erstad, who won a World Series with the 2002 Anaheim Angels, was known to never utter a word when on the bases. Jeff Kent, a five-time all-star and 2000 National League MVP, was the same way.
Even rookies find most opponents generally friendly. There is generally a basic level of conversation that newbies can have: the stadium, the fans or maybe hitting. But being new to the majors can provide some lonely moments at first base.
“I’ve only played like four games over there and half the time I get over there I don’t know anybody,” quipped Moore, a rookie.