Long shared his own story of celebrating a championship in Houston. On the morning before his first Super Bowl with the New England Patriots in February 2017, Long and his fellow defensive linemen went to Walgreens near the team hotel and bought about 10 bottles of André champagne, which they stuffed into the bags they brought to the stadium. Inspired by the typically sudsy scenes in baseball clubhouses after series-clinching playoff wins, Long and his teammates opened the bottles and sprayed each other after New England’s incredible comeback win against the Atlanta Falcons, though their shaking skills left something to be desired. Long asked Doolittle, a more experienced champagne-sprayer, if there is any order to baseball’s seemingly chaotic clubhouse celebrations.
“That might be the only rule is that there are no rules,” Doolittle said. “You’re fair game all the time. You kind of have to have your guard up. Sometimes you might be doing an interview and you might put your goggles on top of your head to give the interview so you can see who you’re talking to and what’s going on, and you’re a sitting duck. Somebody will come up behind you and either pour it over your head or sneak behind the cameraman and spray you pretty much right in the face. The only rule is that you don’t spray it before we’re ready to go. Everybody gets in there, you unscrew the little wiring off, and you start shaking it up so it’s ready to go, but you don’t pop that cork until everybody’s ready.”
Doolittle said it was a couple of hours before he retrieved his phone from his locker, which had been covered by a plastic tarp, after the Nationals’ triumph in Game 7. He had 402 text messages waiting for him from friends and former teammates, as well as one “really, really, really nice message” from Virginia Coach Brian O’Connor.
“It was unbelievable,” Doolittle said. “I’m still at 104 [messages]."
Doolittle was also asked about baseball’s unwritten rules, which came under scrutiny after Bregman hit a towering home run to left field off Stephen Strasburg in the first inning. Rather than drop or even flip his bat by home plate, Bregman carried his lumber all the way to first base. Afterward, both managers expressed their disapproval with the unusual act, and Bregman apologized.
“I just let my emotions get the best of me,” he said. “It’s not how I was raised to play the game."
Doolittle told Long that Bregman’s bat drop was more awkward than disrespectful.
“That was weird, right?” Doolittle said. “That was weird. I don’t like playing against Bregman, but I love watching him. I think he’s one of the more exciting players that we have in our game. I think that the way he’s kind of doing it, that’s the future of our game, right? He’s got the social media presence. He’s got a YouTube channel. He’s done a really cool job, I think, of walking the line of having fun playing the game but still respecting it. I just think in that moment he kind of got caught up. He hit a big home run, and I think he started going down to first base, he had it raised, just watching the ball. It was a high home run, so it took a while to land. All of a sudden he looked down and he was at first base, and he tried to hand the bat to the first base coach.”
When Soto homered off Justin Verlander in the fifth inning, the 21-year-old carried his bat to first base.
“Since I saw that, what Bregman did in the first inning, I was like, ‘That looks pretty cool,’ ” Soto told MLB Network after the game. “‘I want to do that.’”
“This guy’s 21, and he’s playing in his first World Series, in his first full season in the league, and he’s planning his home run celebrations,” Doolittle said. “It’s not that easy! Verlander threw him a 96-mph fastball up and in, dotted it, put it exactly where he wanted to put it, and Soto put it into the second deck.”
Doolittle, who last year jokingly suggested that a player do cartwheels around the bases after a home run, remains a staunch supporter of players expressing themselves after big moments on the field without fear of violating baseball’s unwritten code.
“I think with the bat flips, we should change the way we define respecting the game,” he said. “I think you can show how much you respect the game by how much fun you have playing it. I think as long as you’re not doing it directly at someone. If someone bat-flips me, I promise you I will be more upset that I did not execute the pitch. I will be more upset at myself. My feelings will not be hurt by you celebrating with your team because if I get a big strikeout in that spot, I’m probably going to yell or scream or do something toward my dugout, so it goes both ways. It’s got to go both ways, and I’m totally fine with having fun.”
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