Breaking down baseball's superstitions

NORTH AUGUSTA, SC -- If you've watched a baseball movie like Major League or Bull Durham, you've seen the characters practice some pretty wacky rituals. Well, the movies didn't lie to you: baseball players are incredibly superstitious.
"It depends on the personality. It doesn't matter if it's a pitcher or a position player," said Greenjackets manager Carolos Valderrama. "Every player builds their own superstition."
Valderrama been with the San Francisco Giants organization for 24 years: both as a player and coach. He's a firm believer in the baseball Gods and has seen plenty of strange rituals.
"I was the kind of player like, I really believe in superstition. I played with a pitcher: he wore like the same sliding shorts for probably like 20 years."
Sliding shorts are similar to a combination of compression shorts and a football girdle. They have padding to prevent players from getting cuts and burns when sliding on the base paths. Valderrama didn't just observe. Food is a key ritual for both former and current players. The GreenJackets skipper ate Subway Italian BMT sandwiches for 10 consecutive days during a 10 game hit-streak.
Current first baseman Frankie Tostado said he ate popcorn every night after a game during the first month of the season. Tostado has also been crowned the most superstitious player on the GreenJackets. It starts with his entrance to the field and goes through the game.
"I mean I don't just not jump over the line. I jump over the line and do a heel tap. I've done that since I started and I think people might think it's funky, but it works for me." said Tostado. "When I step in the box it's left foot first, two taps, two swipes of the back left leg, and then I go."
The rituals go beyond taking the field and getting into the batters box. Players have been known to sleep with bats and use the same pair of batting gloves even if there are holes in them. They may change up or supplement their routines depending on the timing of the season and their current performance. Tostado has been known to shave or grow out his beard throughout the season.
"Second half, I thought a fresh start, so I went clean shaven. Had two home runs and I was like, gotta keep it. Then [my batting average] kinda went back down so grew it out but, this is the length its going to stay probably. It's been working for me," Tosado continued.
In a sport dominated by quick decision making and reactions, players need to have a clear head. Many of the rituals and superstitions can seem like distractions. They can also help players get mentally prepared to keep their focus on baseball.
I feel like they help you lock in. I know what I have to do to get myself ready and doing those things help me stay set and get my mind right before the game."
Valderrama and Tosatdo are the faces of GreenJacket superstition. Not all of the players and coaches have embraced that part of the game, but Tostado thinks it might help his teammates.
"I think if they find something, it might help them play. It doesn't hurt, especially if you're going through something and you want to switch it up. It doesn't hurt to do little things like that," Tosado finished.
Not every player will have their own ritual or superstition. Valderrama added that former teammate Barry Bonds didn't have many noticeable rituals and was simply a hard-worker.
The post-season is approaching for the GreenJackets. They'll need to secure a spot in the playoffs and Augusta currently sits atop the second half leader board in the South Atlantic League's southern division. Fans can expect more of the team to embrace their superstitions if they make it: it's not uncommon for players to grow out beards during the playoffs.