Why don't all MLB players shake hands? NHL players do

The NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers players shake hands after a playoff series. Photo Credit: USA Today

The NHL's Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Rangers players shake hands after a playoff series. Photo Credit: USA Today

By Melissa Verge

Canadian Baseball Network

It’s 2012, and I’m galloping out to my position in left field, my back pocket crammed full of sunflower seeds and Double Bubble gum.

It’s going to be a good inning.

I unwrap the gum, because, duh, I’m not going to eat the wrapper, but I’m still not sure how to take the shells off the sunflower seeds. It’s a skill I never acquired. (If anyone can teach me let me know.)

I chew and swallow everything, shells and all. Mmm. Crunchy. It’s kind of like eating little splinters of wood, sometimes pieces of shell get stuck in between my teeth. But, the flavour keeps me going as I wait patiently for a hit.

Besides, I can always floss when I get home.

Chomping on seeds is a game day routine. So is shaking hands with the opposing team when I played.

“Good game, good game, good game,” I repeat like a broken record as I high-five the enemy of five minutes ago. It’s the same after every game, the only difference is in the tone of my voice depending on if we win or lose. A quiet mumble of “good game” escapes me after a loss. After a win, it’s a little more enthusiastic. But, either way, kind words are usually exchanged between players.

“Great job pitching,” or “Nice catch.” It’s not because we’re not competitive. Sure, we’re a small-town team with a population of just over 4,000 in Hampton, N.B. But, we still have as much desire to win every game as if we’re playing for the World Series trophy. This is our summer life.

So, my question is, when did shaking hands after a game no longer become tradition?

Are baseball player’s bad sports? Because NHL players still do it after a playoff series.

And in hockey, after a lot of hits and often punches are thrown in a game, I would think there could be more hostility than after a non-contact sport such as baseball. Sure, it probably hurts more than getting checked into the boards to shake hands with the team that’s moving on to the next round, but they do it anyway. It’s a show of respect. It’s part of the routine.

Why it hasn’t carried over through the levels of pro ball is a surprise to me, knowing that it has for hockey players.

On rare occasions it's happened in baseball, but when it does it's certainly not routine. Larry Walker (Maaple Ridge, BC) who played for the Expos but was playing for the St. Louis Cardinals at the time, did it. It was during the 2004 post-season that he re-introduced a childhood norm that had become an adult rarity in baseball: shaking hands with the opposition - in this case, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

But, It didn’t stick. I don’t remember Rougned Odor and Jose Bautista shaking hands after Game 5 of the ALDS.

As a sports fan, it’s heart-warming to see NHL players- who are all people who happen to be wearing different coloured jerseys- shaking hands at the end of a heated playoff series.

And as a player, no matter how bad our loss and how strong my desire was to win, I never was opposed to shaking hands. If I had a bad experience, it didn’t stick. And trust me, if someone says something mean I remember it.

No, the only thing that stuck with me after shaking hands were the positive comments, often times compliments, that really meant a lot coming from the opposition.

In the end, despite the different coloured jerseys and the different logos, MLB players are more similar than different. They all have a lot of money, they all live that 162-game grind, and they all have an obvious passion and talent for baseball.

So, why can’t they shake hands after the end of a series like NHL players do?