Man Enough to Carry a Pink Backpack?October 07, 2011
America’s favorite pastime is a game filled with tradition — Cracker Jack is still sold in concession stands, and managers wear the same uniforms as players. But over the past few years, a new tradition has been seen throughout the league. Most teams require that the youngest pitchers carry out a bag of snacks and treats for the guys to munch on in the bullpen. Previously, the treats were carried in a gym bag or duffel bag, but now there is a new bag of choice — a pink backpack.
As I’ve become more active on Twitter, I started to follow the players on my favorite baseball team, the Philadelphia Phillies. Rookie reliever Mike Stutes (@mikestutes) is active on Twitter, and through his posts I noticed some back and forth about the pink backpack. After looking into it, I found out that he carries a pink Hello Kitty backpack and a hot pink feather boa. Most of the players laugh it off and say they understand it is just a hazing ritual. The more seasoned players have fun picking out the backpacks with the goal of buying the most humiliating one they can find. Atlanta Braves rookies have carried bags featuring the faces of Hannah Montana, iCarly, Cinderella, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
This may be a fun way for fans to point out who is the lowest pitcher on the totem pole, but it could have other implications. Obviously it is embarrassing to the rookie because they have to walk all the way across the field to the bullpen wearing the pink backpack. Of course, the fact that it’s pink is a bit sexist, delving into the stereotypes of “throwing like a girl” and “playing like a bunch of girls.”
However, it is important to look at this issue within the context of bullying. Being that October is anti-bullying month and the most important month for baseball (#postseason), is this hazing ritual a form of bullying? More importantly, what happens when young boys look to their role models as an example and start their own pink-backpack ritual on their little league teams? The baseball players are grown men, presumably comfortable enough with their sexuality and masculinity and that they can laugh off taunts by fans. But what happens when kids start singling out teammates and calling them girly or gay?
Major League Baseball has been on board with the It Gets Better Project, which reaches out to bullied gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth. My favorite Phillies players have even contributed a video, but does this hazing ritual encourage bullying and homophobia?