I’ve worked in many sports throughout my college career, but baseball had to have been the nastiest. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely loved working in baseball and am not a germaphobe. It just opened my eyes to see how gross the sport is compared to the others. I’m not just talking about the sweat and stink from the players either, because that is universal among sports.
Let’s start out with one of the obvious things that baseball players are known for…spitting. The amount of saliva baseball players produce is on another level. Why do they spit so much? Many of the players chew ZYN which is an oral nicotine pouch. The body absorbs the nicotine and then you spit it out once it is absorbed.
Saliva flew everywhere when they spit it out. Most of the players were good about aiming it in a direction away from people which was so thoughtful. Same thing goes with chewing on sunflower seeds. Thankfully our field had a rule where you can’t spit them on the ground, so the players spit them in cups. The mix of saliva and sunflower seeds in a paper cup, delicious.
There was another thing that the players did that I do not have an explanation for. They would go get a cup of water, drink some, and then take a gulp and spit it out. Why didn’t they want to swallow those last couple of ounces? I couldn’t tell ya.
Not only was their spitting nasty, but what they spit onto is also gross to think about. The floor mat inside of the dugout soaks up everything. You could literally watch the spit be absorbed into the mat. One minute it’s there, the next it’s just another dry spot.
Baseballs were rolled on that same floor mat. They touched remnants of everyones spit that had been soaked into the mat.
Continuing on with the saliva and baseball player relationship, pitchers are allowed to lick their fingers before each pitch. However, the rules state that they must wipe their fingers off before touching the ball. This doesn’t get rid of all of the germs though.
The field I worked at was all turf, except for the batter’s box and pitchers mound. The turf not only got players spit, it also got the players sweat. Now, I know I said I wouldn’t talk about sweat since all sports have sweaty athletes, but I have an exception. Baseball players slide, dive and roll around on the turf. This means that their arms, hands and potentially face are rubbing on turf that has soaked up sweat and spit in it.
I remember one day I was talking to the athletic trainer about all of this. She just so happened to add another reason why baseball is a gross sport. Even though the whole field isn’t dirt, athletes still get dirt on their hands from the batters box, pitching mound, etc. This dirt is, well, dirty and mixes with their sweaty hands that are trapped in batting gloves and their mitt. Infections can occur if a player has a cut on their fingers or hands because of the dirty environment.
I don’t think there are many ways to try and make baseball a cleaner sport. Hand sanitizer and showering are probably the best bet. Most of the gross things are just weird habits players pick up and that are in the sports culture. The odds that they will change are slim, but that’s what makes baseball so uniquely nasty.